By ISAAC LIRI
TWO extra-time goals from Clara Mateo and Juliane Gathrat nudged France into the Under-20 Women’s World Cup final in Port Moresby last night.
An evenly-contested match came to end as the French made history qualifying for their first final in front of an estimated 11,000 people at the Sir John Guise Stadium with a 2-1 win over Japan.
Japanese Yuka Momiki gave some hope in the second-half of extra-time slotting in a penalty goal however that was not enough as the scrambling French defence did enough to hold off a desperate Japanese side.
Japanese coach Asako Takakura cammended the French for their willingness to use their strengths to dominate the exchanges.
“We struggled to match them. They were physical,” Takakura said.
“But we will learn from this game, especially when we play the sides that like to be physical.”
The first 90 minutes was a cat and mouse contest as neither side could get enough time and space launch a serious strike.
Japan’s finese and control was on show but had little return as the French defence had equally effective methods of nullifying and keeping out Japanese raids.
The match went into extra-time as a score-less two haves proved the intensity and quality of the contest at hand.
France’s tactics were clear from the opening exchanges as they looked to assert their size advantage and this was evident with coach Gilles Eyquem’s side ended up committing a whopping 24 fouls and conceding three yellow cards as opposed to none by Japan.
“I was happy with our defence and our mental toughness to stay in the game,” Eyquem said.
In looking to the final, Eyquem said his side would face a different challenge from the North Koreans.
“North Korea are a good passing team but I don’t think they as technically-gifted as Japan.”
By ISAAC LIRI