FIFA U17 Women World Cup 2018: La Roja, Trio of First-timers Make Intriguing Final Four

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The first semi-final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 pits New Zealand against Spain; a counter-attacking side against a possession-based one.

New Zealand have already shown that they are capable of overcoming such opposition, having beaten Japan in the quarter-finals. The second semi-final is a meeting of familiar foes, as Mexico take on Canada.

What you need to know

Asian dominance 
Asian teams have long enjoyed success at U-17 Women’s World Cups, with the continent taking four of the five titles to date: Korea DPR in 2008 and 2016, Japan in 2014 and Korea Republic in 2010. Spain and New Zealand put an end to that supremacy in Uruguay by respectively seeing off Korea DPR and Japan, the last two remaining AFC teams in the tournament and the last two winners of the competition. This is the first time that a semi-final will take place without an Asian team participating.

Records are made to be broken
Japan had not lost for 15 consecutive U-17 Women’s World Cup matches prior to their quarter-final encounter with New Zealand, where Leon Birnie’s side ended that run by winning 4-3 on penalties. Can they triumph against the reigning European champions too?

Three firsts
Canada, Mexico and New Zealand all advanced to the last four at a U-17 Women’s World Cup for the first time. Spain have more experience at this stage, having reached the semi-finals in 2010, 2014 and 2016, even making it to the final once (2014).

Old rivals
The most recent meeting of Mexico and Canada did not take place too long ago. The two teams met in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship over the summer, a game Mexico won 2-1 thanks to goals from Anette Vazquez and Nicole Perez, while Teni Akindoju was on target for Canada.

Players to watch

Maya Hahn (NZL): Hahn demonstrated her self-confidence by taking New Zealand’s first penalty in the shootout against Japan in the quarter-finals, despite only being brought on as a substitute in the second half.

Claudia Pina (ESP): Not only did the striker gain experience at the U-17 Women’s World Cup 2016 and the U-20 Women’s World Cup 2018, she has shown her keen eye for goal in Uruguay, and leads her team-mates as a cornerstone of the Spain side.

Jaidy Gutierrez (MEX): The goalkeeper was Mexico’s hero in the quarter-finals against Ghana, saving twice in the shootout to seal her team’s ticket to the last four. If it goes down to penalties again, the Mexican custodian will be prepared.

Caitlin Shaw (CAN): Shaw instigated the attack that led to Canada’s match-winning goal against Germany, and the midfielder has been ever-present for the Canadians on the defensive and offensive ends of the pitch.

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