Nadeshiko Japan routs Spain to top Group C at Women’s World Cup

Hinata Miyazawa bagged her second brace of the Women’s World Cup on Monday as Japan claimed a resounding 4-0 victory over Spain to top Group C with three straight wins.

Miyazawa’s clinical finishes came on either side of her team’s second from Riko Ueki as world No. 11 Nadeshiko Japan cruised to a 3-0 lead at the break against sixth-ranked Spain. Mina Tanaka buried a superb fourth goal eight minutes from time at Wellington Regional Stadium.

Japan, which has yet to concede a goal at the tournament, will face Group A runner-up Norway in the round of 16 on Saturday, when Spain takes on Switzerland.

"I’m really happy we’ve defended well, won and ended the match with a smile," Miyazawa said. "I think taking each chance will be important going forward too." "Winning all the matches to qualify is really pleasing and gives us good motivation ahead of the next game. We absolutely want to win it as well."

While Spain saw more of the ball, Japan were sharp on the break and took the lead in the 12th minute after captain Saki Kumagai’s diagonal ball through the air found left wing-back Jun Endo just inside the opposing half.

Endo curled in a low ball behind the Spanish backline to pick out Miyazawa, who kept her composure as she took a touch before guiding a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.

Spain continued to dominate possession, but Japan doubled the lead with another sucker punch in the 29th minute. Miyazawa played in Ueki to her left on a two-woman counter, and the forward’s shot from inside the box looped over diving keeper Misa Rodriguez via a deflection off defender Irene Paredes’ foot.

Spain had their first real chance in the 36th minute as Jennifer Hermoso’s header landed on the roof of the net, and Salma Paralluelo saw her menacing drive from distance blocked before Japan grabbed their third in the 40th minute.

It came on another efficient counter as Ueki got the ball near the halfway line before returning the favor to Miyazawa, picking up her run on the right. Like her first goal, Miyazawa took a perfect first touch before steering beyond the arms of Rodriguez, this time with her right foot.

Miyazawa, who now has four goals after hitting a brace in Japan’s 5-0 opening win over Zambia, was replaced at the break by 19-year-old Aoba Fujino. Unmarked Spain defender Ona Battle curled her shot wide three minutes into the second half, but Japan were otherwise never threatened.

Alexia Putellas, who became the first player to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year award and Ballon d’Or Feminin twice in a row through 2022, came off in the 62nd minute for Spain before substitute Tanaka completed the scoring.

On yet another counter, Tanaka cut in from the right and stepped over before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed shot from inside the box into the far top corner.

"Our defense was tenacious and we made good use of space with our counterattacks," manager Futoshi Ikeda said after his organized team stifled a Spanish side needing only a draw to top the group.

"Our players showed wonderful concentration. We talked about having a game that we can build on ahead of the knockout phase and it was really great. It’ll give players confidence winning this way with tenacity. The knockout phase will be a different battle and we’ll prepare well for that."

Debutant Zambia earned its first-ever World Cup win, beating Costa Rica 3-1 to finish third in Group C.