Japan have claimed their first Under-20 Women's World Cup title after defeating Spain 3-1 in the final played at the Stade de la Rabine, Vannes on Friday evening as the curtains were drawn on this year's competition staged in France.
It was a befitting end for the Japanese who showed great determination to overcome a dominant Spainish side with three great goals in the second half to become the new champions, and keep the trophy in Asia, after North Korea who won it in 2016.
Japan won the decisive match of what was the replay of their Group C second game clash, which Spain won narrowly by a goal to nil.
It was a final match of two halves, the Spaniards dominating in the first half, but the Japanese tactically winning it in the second half with goals from Hinata Miyazawa, Saori Takarada and Fuka Nagano before Candela Andujar got the consolation for the European Under-19 champions.
Right from the start, Japan's goalkeeper, Hannah Stambaugh was called to duty, making some important saves for the Young Nadeshiko as the Spaniards, as they had done in all their matches at this tournament, seeking an early lead.
The most dramatic effort was when she denied Patricia Guijarro on the 15th minute, then again denied Maite Oroz, before making a blunt save from Eva Navarro's powerful shot before the break.
Japan proved superior against Spain putting three goals past them in the final
Having been at the receiving end for most of the first half, Japan suddenly turned things around and stunned La Rojita by taking the lead against the run of play on 38 minutes.
It was Miyazawa who broke the deadlock and got the breather for Japan when her effort from her right foot hit target, leaving the outstretched Catalina Coll with little chance to make the save.
Taking the lead inspired the Young Nadeshiko to push forward, and only a fine point-blank save from Coll denied the Japanese a second goal before the break through Jun Endo.
Futoshi Ikeda on returning from the break, showed their quality and efficient side in getting the results at the knockout stage of this competition. On 57 minutes, Takarada made it 2-0 lead with an assured finish after being released in on the Spain goal by a neat Riko Ueki pass, with her back to goal.
Saori Takarada got Japan's second goal
Having claimed control of the contest, the Japanese looked more confident with their play. That best summed up their third goal on the 65th minute. Takarada returned the favour earlier done her as she provided the move for Nagano on the right of the Spain box to finish off with a brilliant first touch shot that flew over Coll and into the net.
Spain tried to recover and managed to get a consolation from Andujar on the 71st minute for Spain. They could have further reduced the tally to 2-3 had Stambaugh not tipped Claudia Pina’s shot on to the crossbar two minutes later.
Pedro's ladies pushed further and harder hoping to comeback, but a resolute Japanese defence led by Stambaugh, thwarted their efforts to leave the result at 3-1 when the final whistle went, handing the title over to the Japanese as reward for their 'never give up' spirit.
2018 Under-20 Women's World Cup Best Player, Patricia Guijarro is flanked by Saori Takarada (left) and Moeka Minami (right), silver and bronze ball winners respectively
adidas Golden Ball: Patri Guijarro (Spain)
adidas Silver Ball: Saori Takarada (Japan)
adidas Bronze Ball: Moeka Minami (Japan)
adidas Golden Boot: Patri Guijarro (Spain) - 6 goals
With six goals and three assists, Guijarro edged England’s Georgia Stanway to the award for the tournament’s top goalscorer, despite the adidas Silver Boot winner finding the net six times herself at France 2018.
adidas Silver Boot: Georgia Stanway (England) - 6 goals
adidas Bronze Boot: Saori Takarada (Japan) - 5 goals
adidas Golden Glove: Sandy MacIver (England)
While her attacking team-mates scored goals at the other end, MacIver produced some key saves for the Young Lionesses during their time in Brittany. This included two stops in a penalty shoot-out win over France that earned England third place at France 2018 - their best finish in this competition.
England's Sandy MacIver claimed the Golden Gloves award
Fair Play: Japan
Not only did Japan succeed in winning their first U-20 Women’s World Cup title in France, they also claimed the Fair Play award for having received the fewest yellow cards during the tournament