Of the 16 teams that arrived in the Caribbean bubbling with ambition, only four are still left. It is semi-final time at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 and three fearsome Asian sides plus the champions of Europe will now lock horns for the right to contest the trophy in a fascinating pair of games.
The first semi-final brings together two hopefuls who impressed for different reasons in the last eight: Korea Republic, who downed Nigeria 6-5 after extra time in an epic tussle, and Spain, who are buoyed by beating pre-tournament favourites Brazil 2-1. The winner of that match will then face either defending champions Korea DPR or Japan in the showpiece, the former fresh from defeating a powerful Germany side 1-0 and the latter having dug deep to oust Republic of Ireland 2-1.
Match of the day
Korea DPR-Japan, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, 19.00
These two rivals look to have much in common on paper, with both favouring a short-passing game, a clinical finisher (Kim Kum Jong for Korea DPR and Kumi Yokoyama for Japan) and plenty of diminutive but skilful individuals all over the pitch. They also took runners-up spot in their respective sections and have been steadily improving throughout the tournament, culminating in a pair of quarter-final victories against European sides.
For all that, however, this 100 per cent Asian encounter will throw up a stark clash of styles. Korea DPR are most noted for their disciplined approach and an ironclad defensive style based on two banks of four, while their goalscoring strategy revolves around counter-attacks usually finished off by Kim Kum Jong. As for the young Nadeshiko, they have adopted a rapid, forward-looking philosophy that carries the risk of leaving them exposed at the back. In short, the best defence still left in the competition will be testing itself against the best attack, with sparks no doubt sure to fly.
The other match
They may not have racked up the biggest scorelines in Trinidad and Tobago, but Spain have done all that was asked of them to reach the semi-finals. After finishing top of a modest Group C, Las Rojitas promptly raised their game when required in the quarter-finals, and the controlled, stylish play of Amanda Zampedro and Co proved more than Brazil could handle. They will now be hoping to pose Korea Republic similar problems.
The Taeguk Ladies have nonetheless caused their fair share of surprises along the way and, in Yeo Min Ji, boast the favourite to finish the tournament as top scorer. Currently on seven strikes, she has helped her side fight back from the brink of elimination, most notably against Nigeria in their previous outing when they equalised twice before sealing victory in extra time.
2 – This will be the second time these two respective fixtures have been staged at a FIFA women’s tournament. The earlier ties came in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, with Spain seeing off Korea Republic 2-1 at Thailand 2004 and Korea DPR defeating Japan by the same scoreline at Chile 2008.
What they said
"I admit that I don’t know this Spain team at all as I’ve never had the chance to see them play. Playing a World Cup semi-final against them will be a good time to put that right,” Kim Areum, Korea Republic captain.