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Japan edged USA 1-0 in a closely-fought match in Group C at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, thanks to a stunning, long-range effort by Honoka Hayashi.

The first half was played at a frenetic pace, with both sides threatening the opposition goal on numerous occasions. Japan came closest to scoring the opening goal on the half-hour mark when Hinata Miyazawa sent in a cross that USA failed to clear. The ball dropped for Saori Takarada, whose initial header hit the American’s crossbar. Takarada then attempted another header, but USA goalkeeper Laurel Ivory was up to the challenge and made the save.

The Stars and Stripes responded with an effort of their own ten minutes later when Sophia Smith went on a lung-bursting run into the Japanese penalty area, but Hana Takahashi and goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh were able to thwart Smith’s attempt on goal.

Chances were few and far between in the second half, with USA especially looking cautious in their decision making when in possession.

With just under 15 minutes remaining, it was Japan who were rewarded for taking their opportunity. Midfielder Hayashi unleashed a left-footed shot from well over 30 yards out, with her effort kissing off the crossbar before finding the back of the net – an effort worthy of winning any match.

USA thought they had found a late equaliser, but Riko Ushijima made a well-timed goalline headed clearance to deny them a point in Concarneau.

Hayashi’s stunning goal will no doubt be in contention for the goal of the tournament award, and more importantly, it put three valuable points on the board for the Young Nadeshiko in Group C.

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