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Spain bow to Japan in U17 world final

Japan proved to be Spain's bogey team in Costa Rica, beating them 2-0 in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup final, having also defeated them by the same margin in the opener.

Spain players comfort each other following their final defeat against Japan
Spain players comfort each other following their final defeat against Japan ©AFP

Spain lost 2-0 to Japan in the final of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica having lost to the same opponents by the same margin in their opening game at the final tournament.

Meika Nishida finished from a rebound on five minutes after Elena De Toro had pushed Shiho Matsubara's shot on to the bar, and substitute Fuka Kono completed the scoring 12 minutes from the end after being played in by Rikako Kobayashi. It could have been worse for Spain, with Mizuki Saihara hitting the bar late on, but coach Jorge Vilda was impressed by his side's performance.

"Although the result was the same as when the teams met in the group phase, our feelings after the match are completely different," said Spain coach Jorge Vilda. "We made things very uncomfortable for them and competed very well. I am very proud of my team. The tournament was an unprecedented success for us. We've won silver medals and practically all of the players were involved at some point. It's one of those experiences we will take with us for the rest of our lives."

Spain, who qualified for the tournament as runners-up in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship in England last winter, also opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss against Japan, but beat New Zealand 3-0 and Paraguay 7-1 to earn a quarter-final with Nigeria, seeing them off 3-0. In the semis they were up against an Italy team that beat European Women's U17 hosts England on penalties for the third qualifying slot, and Spain won 2-0 thanks to second-half penalties from Sandra Hernández and Nahikari García.

Italy beat Venezuela 2-0 on penalties following a 4-4 draw in the third-place match. Earlier in the tournament, Italy won their group by beating Zambia and hosts Costa Rica before a 1-0 loss to Venezuela, and overcame Ghana 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw to earn the semi-final with Spain.

Germany won the European title in December but were the only of the three UEFA contenders to depart Costa Rica after the group stage, drawing 2-2 with Canada but losing 1-0 to Ghana and 4-3 to North Korea. France, the first European side to win the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan two years ago, were unable to defend their title as they were knocked out in the group stage in England behind Spain and Germany.

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