Football Ferns struggle to create chances as they lose to Japan in Spain

New Zealand’s seven-match unbeaten run has been ended by a 2-0 loss to Japan in their women’s international friendly in Spain.

Played at Spain’s Estadio Enrique Roca de Murcia, FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finalists Japan always looked the more dangerous of the sides, registering 14 shots in the game.

The Football Ferns went the entire game without registering a shot.

For most of the first half, both teams were content to stroke the ball around the pitch without penetrating or taking risks.

But the game was won with goals on either side of the interval.

The first blow came in first-half stoppage time when the Japan team broke down the right, and a two-pass move set up Mina Tanaka for a clear shot that beat goalkeeper Anna Leat from 12 metres.

Main photo: Mina Tanaka (centre) is congratulated by teammates after scoring the opening goal.

The second goal came soon after the start of the second half when Hikaru Kitagawa’s inswinging corner was met beyond the far post by an unmarked Toko Koga.

She steered her header off the post and into the net.

Toko Koga (20) heads the ball off the post and into the net for Japan’s second goal.

In the 64th and 66th minutes, Leat made saves to keep the deficit to two goals.

A couple of minutes later, New Zealand produced their best chance of the game.

Substitute Hannah Wilkinson, Katie Kitching and Ally Green combined down the left, and Green floated a perfectly weighted cross over the head of Japan’s substitute goalkeeper Shu Ohba.

But Gabi Rennie could not quite reach the ball to head it into the net, and the chance went begging.

In the 75th minute, Ferns defender Katie Bowen put in a crucial tackle to prevent what could have been a third Japanese goal.

From the resulting corner, an unchallenged Maika Hamano header went to waste when it flew straight into Leat’s grasp.

In the final stages, Bowen took a couple of bad knocks within four minutes, leaving her dazed and causing concern for medical staff and teammates.

In added time, Leat made an excellent save from a fierce Kiko Seike shot.

As a spectacle, the game was a stop-start affair, not helped by the multiple substitutions and regular two-minute drink breaks.

The teams meet again at the same venue on Tuesday (NZT).

Match stats

First half 

New Zealand / Japan

Shots: 0 / 5
Shots on target: 0 / 2
Possession: 53% / 47%
Passes: 257 / 238
Pass accuracy: 78% /  85%
Fouls: 6 / 4
Yellow cards: 0 / 0
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 0 / 1
Corners: 1 / 4

Full game

New Zealand / Japan

Shots: 0 / 14
Shots on target: 0 / 9
Possession: 50% / 50%
Passes: 449 / 444
Pass accuracy: 79% / 84%
Fouls: 9 / 10
Yellow cards: 0 / 1
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 0 / 2
Corners: 2 / 8


Game played on Saturday, June 1, 2024

New Zealand 0
Japan 2 (Mina Tanaka 45+2′, Tōko Koga 47′)


New Zealand’s starting line-up.

New Zealand

Anna Leat, CJ Bott, Malia Steinmetz (Daisy Cleverley 73′), Ali Riley (captain) (Grace Neville 46′), Rebekah Stott, Katie Bowen, Jacqui Hand (Gabi Rennie 58′), Grace Jale (Milly Clegg 84′), Indiah-Paige Riley (Hannah Wilkinson 46′), Michaela Foster (Ally Green 58′), Katie Kitching (Kate Taylor 84′).

Subs not used: Victoria Esson, Murphy Sheaff, Claudia Bunge, Meikayla Moore, Mackenzie Barry.

Interim head coach: Michael Mayne


Yellow: Kitching 59′.

Japan’s starting line-up.


Chika Hirao (Shu Ohba 46′), Mina Tanaka (Remina Chiba 78′), Kiko Seike, Miyabi Moriya (Maika Hamano. 46′), Hikaru Kitagawa, Honoka Hayashi, Moeka Minami (Hana Takahashi 61′), Fuka Nagano (Yui Hasegawa 73′), Hinata Miyazawa (Riko Ueki, 61′), Rion Ishikawa, Toko Koga.

Subs not used: Ayaka Yamashita, Risa Shimizu, Saki Kumagai, Momoko Tanikawa, Aoba Fujino.

Coach: Futoshi Ikeda




Referee: Jason Barcelo (Gibraltar)
Assistants: Michael Macias (Gibraltar), Daniel Gomez (Gibraltar)


Game to be played on Tuesday June 4, 2024 (NZT)

New Zealand v Japan
Estadio Nueva Condomina, Murcia, Spain, 2am (NZT)

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