FIFA U-17 WC: Rookie New Caledonia holds Japan to make a mark

Debutant New Caledonia put up a strong display to hold Asian powerhouse Japan to a 1-1 draw in the concluding group E league match.

Japan went into the lead in the seventh minute when Nakamura scored from a spectacular solo effort that saw him foxing at least four Caledonian defenders.   -  PTI

Debutante New Caledonia sprung a big surprise by holding Asian giant Japan 1-1 in the concluding group E league match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.

Keito Nakamura scored for Japan while captain Jekob Jeno fetched the equaliser for New Caledonia.

New Caledonia, one of the minnows of world football representing the Oceania group, showed the right grit and attitude in putting it out against a superior opponent like Japan, which has a rich tradition in the sport.

The result did not alter Japan’s chances of moving into the classification stage, which it did by netting four points. It became the second team in the group standings after leader France and will be staying back in the city to play the winner of the Group F in the pre-quarterfinals on Tuesday.

MATCH CENTRE

For New Caledonia the lone point coming after two big loses, that saw it conceding a total of 12 goals in the previous group outings against France and Honduras, was a big achievement considering its state and stature in international football.

The celebrations after the match came to reveal it more as the players went around the stadium acknowledging the thunderous cheers from a gathering of around 45,000 spectators in the stands.

Needing just a draw to move into the next round Japan seemed to opt for preservation by overhauling almost the full side that started against France in the previous group  outing. The top scorer of the side Nakamura and Seiya Baba in the defence were the only two names who were retained as Japanese coach Yoshiro Moriyama chose to test his bench strength.

Japan went into the lead in the seventh minute when Nakamura scored from a spectacular solo effort that saw the Mitsubishi Yowa SC striker foxing at least four Caledonian defenders.

Nakamura had another chance to double the lead in the 35th minute but his effort off a corner was cleared from the line by Bernard Iwa of New Caledonia. Subsequently Taichi Yamasaki, Toichi Suzuki and substitute Yukinari Sugawara saw their attempts from close either getting blocked or going wide of the target. 

READ: FIFA U-17 WC: France beats Honduras, tops Group E

The New Caledonians exploited the apparent laxity in the Japan defence when Jeno nodded home a corner that was headed along to him by Pierre Bako.

In another historic moment, Esther Staubli became the first female referee to officiate a match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which she did quite successfully in the Japan-New Caledonia match.

The result: Japan 1 (Keito Nakamura 7) drew with New Caledonia 1(Jekob Jeno) .

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