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U-17 World Cup

North Korea Makes Historic Clean Sweep, Wins FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

AMMAN, JORDAN - OCTOBER 21: HRH Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan and FIFA President Gianni Infantino hand the medals over to players of Japan after the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Finale match between Korea DPR and Japan at Amman International Stadium on October 21, 2016 in Amman, Jordan. (Photo by Boris Streubel - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The Young Nadeshiko of Naoki Kusunose’s Japan needed to break through one of the toughest defenses in the 2016 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup, that of Young Chollima of Sin Jong Bok’s North Korea. A defensive struggle that yielded no goals went down to penalties, with the Young Chollima prevailing 5-4. Every member that participated in the shootout converted, with Ri Kum-hyang slotting the winner and Rio Kanekatsu writing him name in infamy.

“Japan’s technical level is higher than ours, I admit that, and they missed some golden opportunities,” said Sin. “But they have some weaknesses too and we were able to capitalize on those. Everything went according to plan and I think we deserved the victory today. The two good results against them in the AFC [U-16 Women’s] Championship [a draw in the group stage and victory in the final] meant we were full of confidence going into this game. We did what we’d set out to. Granted, we didn’t score, but neither did they.

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“Generally teams start practicing penalties once they have qualified for the quarter-finals, but we began back at home, before we left for Jordan. Perhaps that made things easier for the players. Either way, they were up to the task and got the job done. Our team play and mental strength was what helped us win this tournament. When I took the reins, I watched back the team’s matches from the previous edition to avoid us making the same mistakes. We mustn’t stop here. On our return home, we won’t be thinking about financial rewards but rather about carrying on working hard so as to maintain the same level.”

And with that the truth has been revealed. Japan just isn’t that good at women’s football anymore. First, Nadeshiko Japan lose to Australia on the senior’s side during Rio 2016 qualifiers earlier this year. And now they lose to North Korea twice at the junior level.

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“We are disappointed that we didn’t win the title. We gave everything we had but in the end we lost to a good DPR Korea team,” said Fuka Nagano, the captain of the Young Nadeshiko. “I think we can be very proud of our achievements throughout the tournament. We played some amazing football, we grew stronger as a team and this has been an amazing experience for us. As a team, we are more resilient now and I am sure we will do better in future competitions. We want to improve for the next competition. Be it the next AFC or FIFA competition, we want to do better and eventually win the title.”

But in order to do that, the Japan Football Association needs to take a long hard look at themselves and figure out how to improve the women’s game on their end so that they do not come up short. They are no longer the confederation’s gold standard anymore. That has now moved to Australia at the senior level and North Korea at the junior level. This has been, without a doubt, a down year for women’s football in Japan.

Participating nations
Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, England, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Jordan, Korea DPR, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain, USA, Venezuela

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Ranking
1. Korea DPR
2. Japan
3. Spain
4. Venezuela

Host cities and stadiums
Amman International Stadium (Amman), King Abdullah II International Stadium (Amman), Al Hassan International Stadium (Irbid), Prince Mohammed International Stadium (Al Zarqa)

Top scorers
adidas Golden Boot: Lorena Navarro (ESP) (8 goals, 1 assist)
adidas Silver Boot: Ri Hae-Yon (PRK) (5 goals, 1 assist)
adidas Bronze Boot: Deyna Castellanos (VEN) (5 goals)

Awards
adidas Golden Ball: Fuka Nagano (JPN)
adidas Silver Ball: Sung Hyang-Sim (PRK)
adidas Bronze Ball: Deyna Castellanos (VEN)
adidas Golden Glove: Noelia Ramos (ESP)
Fair Play trophy: Japan

Number of goals
104 (an average of 3.25 per game)

Number of spectators
104,095 (an average of 3,253 per game)

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