Holders Korea DPR bounced back from their opening-day loss to Brazil to edge out East Asian neighbours Japan and book passage to their second consecutive FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup semi-final. Their 2-1 win in the Chilean capital on Monday now sets up a mouth-watering last-four date with France, who beat Nigeria on Sunday.
The Japanese, who have earned many fans here in Chile with their stylish and highly technical brand of football, started the brighter side on Monday. Kie Koyama made three fine runs in the first quarter-hour, but failed to find the mark, steering her shots wide.
Cha Hu Nam punished the Japanese for their profligacy and opened the scoring for the Koreans after 22 minutes, combining well wtih Ri Jong Sim to score from close range.
Japan, the more creative of the two sides up to that point, equalised in the 39th minute. Asano Nagasato curling her free-kick from 20 yards around the wall and into the top corner of the net, leaving Kim Un Ju with no chance to save.
But the Koreans came out with increased vigour in the second period, and they took hold of the tense encounter by the scruff of the neck. Kim Chun Hui tried a long-range shot early, but failed to find the mark. Captain Ra Un Sim got it right on the hour mark. Charging hard up the left side, she roared past three defenders before going into the box and scoring with her second attempt to make it 2-1.
There it stayed to the end. The Japanese fought hard as the final whistle approached. They lost goalkeeper Misa Sugawara to a serious injury and as the clock wound down it became clear that it was not to be their day.
The victorious Koreans now take on France in their semi-final on Thursday in Temuco. The Japanese, despite being one of the finest teams on display in Chile, will head for home.