Japan 2-0 Costa Rica: Quickfire goals seal the points for Nadeshiko

Keen to build on their dominant showing against Zambia, Japan faced Costa Rica on Wednesday – with the Nadeshiko looking to pick up another three points ahead of a highly-anticipated clash against Spain.

JPN: Yamashita; Minami, Kumagai, Miyake; Sugita, Hasegawa, Hayashi, Shimizu; Naomoto, Fujino; Tanaka

CRC: Solera; Guillen, Benavides, Villalobos; Elizondo, Granados, Alvarado, Coto; Chinchilla, Salas, Herrera

Japan looked comfortable throughout the opening exchanges, though a much-improved defensive performance from Costa Rica ensured that the Asian side found it difficult to find the back of the net – with a mix-up seeing Shimizu and Fujino become intertwined as they both looked to slam home the opener form close range.

With 25 minutes played, the Nadeshiko found their long-awaited breakthrough. A slip from Coto allowed Naomoto to skip past her, before firing an effort past Solera – who was ever so impressive against Spain, despite conceding thrice against la Roja.

The second goal followed soon after, with the floodgates seemingly opening as Fujino jinked past a defender on the right flank, before working her way back centrally and unleashing a strike that had Solera beaten at the near post. Minami Tanaka was involved in both goals, registering two assists in just two minutes.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

The pressure continued to build ahead of the interval, with Costa Rica struggling to find even momentary respite as waves of Asian attack flooded forward. Naomoto’s effort spurned wide of the post in stoppage time signalled the end of the half, and a much needed opportunity for Amelia Valverde to make some tactical changes.

Yet the Japanese side’s confidence was unshakeable, with Hayashi, Naomoto and Hasegawa all testing the Costa Rican ‘keeper within minutes of play resuming. Solera was equal to all three efforts, and it’s fair to say that she’s been a saving grace for her nation throughout this tournament.

Costa Rica did improve as the game matured, but Villalobos’ effort on target in the final ten minutes was the perfect example of ‘too little, too late.’

Japan’s performance perhaps wasn’t as dominant as their showing against Zambia, but they recorded a crucial three points ahead of a mouthwatering final group stage encounter against Spain. For Costa Rica, they can still mathematically qualify – but that relies on la Roja slipping up against Zambia, which looks unlikely.

The wait for Group B action is a short one, as Spain take on Zambia at 08:30 UK time on 26 July. Then, Costa Rica will face Zambia while Japan test themselves against Spain on 31 July – with both of those fixtures kicking off at 8am UK time.