Soccer: Young Football Ferns fall to Japan

The Young Football Ferns have lost their second match 3-0 to Japan at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan.

A brace of second half goals from substitute Yui Hasegawa and a penalty by Risa Sumida in stoppage time proved enough for Japan.

One of the pre-tournament favourites, Japan made five changes to the starting line up who destroyed Brazil 5-0 showcasing their depth at international level. The Asian side dominated possession for long periods of the match and dictated the tempo as they virtually assured progress to the quarter finals.

The Japan result combined with Brazil defeating Mexico 1-0 in the earlier match at 8km Stadium in Baku means the Young Football Ferns chances to advance are all but gone. Mathematically New Zealand can still qualify, but will need Japan to continue their winning ways over Mexico, and secure their own victory over Brazil by two clear goals in the final Group C match on Sunday.

Once again New Zealand had goalkeeper Lily Alfeld to thank the defeat was not heavier after the Christchurch-based custodian produced another fine display in the Young Football Ferns goal.

Twice she denied Hina Sugita in the first half, tipping over spectacularly just before the half hour mark and then scrambling at the back post a few minutes later to push a header wide to ensure the teams entered the break scoreless.

Alfeld was finally beaten on the hour when New Zealand half cleared Japan's seventh corner of the match into the path of Hasegawa who rifled home a left-foot drive from the edge of the area. 18 minutes later it was a right-footed strike from the same player this time further out that whistled past Alfeld to put the match out of reach of the young New Zealanders.

Megan Lee conceded a heartbreaking penalty in stoppage time, Alfeld guessed the right way, but Sumida put had enough power on the spot kick.

In the past 18 months Japan has claimed the FIFA Women's World Cup title as well as a silver medal at the recently completed Olympic Games. Throw in a third place finish at the U-20 world cup on home soil last month and their pedigree is obvious.

CJ Bott returned from an ankle injury to captain the Young Football Ferns and restore Temple's first choice back four, but unfortunately they lost influential left back Laura Merrin to a shoulder injury in first half and the news is not good for the defender.

The Young Football Ferns final Group C match is against Brazil on Sunday night (NZ time), with Japan facing Mexico at the same time across town.

FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 At 8km Stadium, Baku
New Zealand 0 Japan 3 (Yui HASEGAWA 60', 78'; Risa SUMIDA 90'+3 pen)
Halftime: 0-0

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