Group C: Spain 1-0 Japan
Concarneau: Japan will need to beat Paraguay to be assured of a place in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Knockout Stage, after the Asian champions fell to a 1-0 defeat against Spain on Thursday.
The Spaniards took an early lead through Carmen Menayo, then defended strongly to win a hard fought contest between two sides who qualified for the competition as champions of their respective confederations.
Japan, though dominant in the possession stakes, lacked their usual incisiveness as they were limited to a single shot on target in the second half.
They had looked characteristically strong in possession early, and Jun Endo - one of three new faces from the side that beat the USA 1-0 on Monday - had what was ultimately their best chance when she skipped past two defenders to advance into the penalty area, only to be denied by goalkeeper Catalina Coll.
The momentum shifted when a sloppy back pass from Riko Ushijima gifted Spain a corner kick in the 16th minute, and Carmen Menayo made the Young Nadeshiko pay when she prodded home the game's decisive goal after a scramble in the six-yard box.
Despite their lead, Spain then endured a difficult time trying to navigate the Japanese press, and Nanami Kitamura came within inches of equalising after being released by Fuka Nagano's intelligent pass in the 27th minute.
Japan's control of possession continued but Spain's organised defence prevented them from creating any clear cut chances, with Endo's long range effort, which drew a routine save from Coll, the only moment of concern for Pedro Lopez's side late in the first half.
The second half nearly began with a second goal, as Moeka Mianami watch her defensive header fly just wide of her own net from the first of four Spanish corner kicks in quick succession, none of which were convincingly defended by Japan.
Asato Miyagawa and Riko Ueki were introduced at the hour mark, and the latter made her presence immediately felt when she was brought down by a tackle that earned Berta Pujadas a yellow card, before forcing Coll into her only save of the half six minutes later.
While Japan's command of possession was as pronounced as ever, strong collective defending meant they struggled to find the space with which to create further inroads, and Spain nearly doubled their lead late on when Patricia Guijarro superb turn and shot missed the mark by a matter of inches.
The result means Japan's final remaining Group D fixture against Paraguay on Monday is now likely to be a must-win proposition, while simply avoiding defeat will secure top spot for Spain.
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images