Extraordinary was this second semi final. More below. But we are still sticking to our major aspect. Spain minimised their chances in the group stage (by getting second with the draw in the last match). Maybe they feel it somehow. But do they have realised? Sometimes you have no choice and can be happy to place second. But when you have a choice of an easy way to the final you should take it. So it was like against Germany but the other way round. With the unlucky day for Spain this time. Your opponent scores with the first opportunity while in the mean time five balls had fallen mean to you just missing a few centimetres for your forwards in the box to score.
And in the other bracket, kudos to them, Venezuela and North Korea fought for the spot in the finals. Under normal circumstances not a big problem for Japan, Spain and Germany to beat them. Maybe the first semi doesnt get quite the credit it deserves because the second was just so good. Maybe a little bit because it is always not that interesting to wait more or less for one player to make things happen but then it just does not happen. But that was also due to a very stable performance of North Korea who are deservedly in the finals.
Venezuela – North Korea 0:3
We saw North Korea struggle more than expected against Ghana in the quarters and so were not so convinced about them being big favorites here anymore. But overall it was overall a rather dominating performance especially in keeping Castellanos away from doing too much damage apart to the hand of the goalie. Hopefully that isnt as bad as it looked the first moment. But that was already the closest Venezuela came and even Castellanos can not convert every single chance she gets. There have been a few other good players from Venezuela and they could deny North Korea from getting too much dominance. But finally there was too few support up front and no one able to threaten the goal of their opponents when Castellanos was covered. Additionally North Korea were the side with the little bit of luck needed when a first long range shot from quite an angle found the way above keeper Naylouisa Caceres exactly into the far upper corner.
And after having not had too much chances North Korea got 2 up after a corner sailed again above the hands of the keeper Caceres for an easy tip in after 72 minutes. Quite similar to the other semi final that was it because Venezuela also reacted in getting more confused and losing their focus in their desire to get back into the game. Thus North Korea could finish the game off by scoring yet another one to go safely over the finish line.
Spain – Japan 0:3
A stunning game. Another sign of how much the younger girls are improving. Another example of the level they have reached in the meantime. And another example that these years are extraordinary? Or will they continue to get even better? We will see. We would tend to think that this is now slowly but surely reaching a top level that is difficult to improve much further at the moment. Yet the “lesser” teams might still continue to get closer. However having seen short sequences from the German U15 they might be even better. We will see. And it will certainly be interesting.
But in this match both teams skills on the ball were excellent. No way any side of the NWSL nor the Bundesliga reach that on average. Might be Olympique Lyon and PSG. Not only did they have an excellent touch of the ball in all sorts of pressurised situations. They came up with very creative and technically difficult solutions to keep possession of the ball all the time all over the field when tackled for the ball. And also the skills when the opponents got a foot on the ball and they were set to loose it their anticipation of what move is needed to get it back immediately or how to deal with the interception was absolutely top class (not compared to their age group but compared to the top senior level).
It was indeed the more than worthy highlight of the championship.
As could be expected Spain was no way the weaker team but had the better chances in the first half. However Japan were the more clinical who took the lead with their first brilliant move into the opposite box of the match. That seemed to make the Spanish players even more switch into top gear. Slowly but surely they took over control of the game and had a majority of the possession – though a slight one – but an even more clear advantage in shot attempts and chances. However they couldnt convert them which was maybe the main point to criticise.
And soon after half time it was like football is. Spain hadnt been able to take their chances. And Japan rolled the dice in a second time and got their second six. It was again a brilliant move with a fantastic through ball to set up a sharp flat cross in the face of goal. But Spains dice showed -1: own goal. Shouldnt have happened. But happens to good players. And the 0:2 again triggered a quite similar reaction like that one of Germany against Spain: The team behind lost a little bit of composure and instead started a hustle. It increased with every other opportunity they saw go missing. Not that there have been an aweful lot. But when you saw the Spanish players now you could all too much sense that the clock was ticking. It was like every player wanted to gain an advantage for her team immediately and personally after they received the ball that bit too rushed.
And so it was again Japan who could score after a good piece of refereeing saw a penalty given after the initial advantage turned out to be to no avail. It has to be said that in both semi finals the refs have finally been good quite in contrary to what was seen earlier in the tournament.
So Japan finally had a well deserved victory but the scoreline didnt quite show the margin between the two correctly. Again like in the quarter final you couldnt even say who was the better team. It was just that in the decisive situations the dice rolled in favour of Japan and they did what they needed to to make that count.
Friday 21st 1900 CET
North Korea – Japan
So far by far the better performances from Japan. They would need to have a very very bad day in the office to lose. But. North Koreas defense might deal a bit better than the others with the style of play of Japan. Just because they are more used to it and are the team with the most similar style of play themselves.
It certainly helps to understand and anticipate the Japanese moves going forward.
We have seen the quali final between these two where Japan were the far dominant team but failed to score and lost 0:1. However the gap between the two sides was significant and it seems not too much has changed since then.
Game for third place Spain – Venezuela will be at 1600 CET. Probably Spain should use a lot of fresh players to support their development as well. So that might be interesting to see how good the roster is. Lets see if Venezuela does the same. For that reason it is good to have that game for third place in U- world championships too.