apan showed why they are serious contenders at the Women’s World Cup by hammering Spain to finish top of Group C and book a last-16 showdown with Norway.
The 2011 world champions made it look easy by scoring three times before half-time, with Hinata Miyazawa getting two to take her tally to four goals and become the tournament’s leading scorer.
The attacking midfielder put Japan ahead with a calm finish after Spain’s defence had been exposed, before Riko Ueki doubled the lead with a deflected finish which looped into the net.
Miyazawa, who scored two in Japan’s opening group game against Zambia, made it 3-0 by firing across goal and into the net in front of a crowd of 20,957.
Substitute Mina Tanaka added to Spain’s pain with a fourth goal in the 82nd minute.
Japan started the third and final group game trailing Spain on goal difference after both teams had made 100% winning starts in New Zealand.
Japan will stay in Wellington, where they will meet Norway, the 1995 world champions, on Saturday at 09:00 BST.
Group runners-up Spain head to Auckland, where they will play Switzerland at Eden Park on Saturday at 06:00 BST.
Formidable Japan produce masterclass
Japan made five changes to the side that overcame Costa Rica in Dunedin five days earlier yet never looked back after taking control on a blustery evening in New Zealand’s capital.
After wins against Zambia and Costa Rica, this was the night they really showed the world they mean business with a powerful performance which included some exceptional finishing against a Spain side high in confidence after back-to-back wins.
Miyazawa, who also laid on the assist for Ueki’s goal, looks a real handful and will be crucial if the two-time finalists are to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015.
Japan fans, who turned out in numbers in Wellington with some dressed in colourful masks and national costume, witnessed a masterclass from their team.
Japan had won only one of their past five World Cup games before this edition.
But they look formidable after a third successive win in New Zealand.