Venezuela against Japan and Spain will play Italy in today’s semifinals of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica. Each team will be dreaming of winning what would be its first title in the fourth edition of this tournament. Both matches Monday will take place at the Edgardo Baltodano Briceño Stadium, in the city of Liberia, the capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste.
Japan and Venezuela face off at 5 p.m. Italy and Spain meet at 8 p.m.
Venezuela’s Vino Tinto, the big surprise of this World Cup, which began on March 15 and has its championship on Friday, has a balanced team along all lines. No Venezuelan team — male or female — has ever made it to the semifinals of a World Cup at any level. Here, Venezuela and Japan are the only teams that have not yet suffered a defeat in the tournament after both squads cruised through the group stage.
In the group stage, Venezuela defeated host Costa Rica (3-0), Zambia (4-0) and Italy (1-0). In the quarterfinals, Venezuela allowed its only goals of the tournament in a tight, 3-2, victory over Canada.
Japan, the runner-up of the the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago, have not conceded a goal the entire tournament. The Japanese knocked off Spain (2-0), Paraguay (10-0) and New Zealand (3-0) in the group stage. Japan won, 2-0, against Mexico in the quarterfinals.
European rivals Spain and Italy will meet in another match with no clear favorite. Each team has suffered a loss apiece (Spain losing to semifinalist Japan, Italy falling to the other semifinalist Venezuela in the group stage).
The Spaniards, after the defeat to Japan in the opener, crushed New Zealand (3-0) and Paraguay (7-1). The squad then won its quarterfinals match, 3-0, over Nigeria. Spain’s best finish at this World Cup came in 2010 when the team finished third.
Italy had that loss to Venezuela in the group stage but managed wins against Zambia (2-0) and Costa Rica (1-0). Italy survived a close quarterfinals match against Ghana. The Black Maidens tied the match in the 90th minute at, 2-2, but fell to the Italians in penalty kicks.
The World Cup final will take place at the National Stadium in west San José on Friday. The championship will be preceded by a third place match. Tickets are available for the matches through FIFA’s website. The cheapest championship tickets cost ₡3,000 ($6).
Costa Rica’s under-17 women’s team was eliminated in the first round of the World Cup, but not before breaking attendance records at the tournament.
The previous champions of this World Cup tournament are France (hosted by Azerbaijan in 2012), South Korea (hosted by Azerbaijan in 2010) and North Korea (hosted by New Zealand in 2008).
UPDATE: Japan (4-1) and Spain (2-0) are through to the final. The two teams will play for the World Cup title Friday at 5 p.m. at the National Stadium.