USA won the battle of the top two teams in Group D thanks to their golden girl Sydney Leroux and it leaves them to face a quarter-final tie against Nigeria in Augsburg on Sunday. Korea Republic, who were already assured of their last-eight place, return to Dresden where they take on Mexico.
The reigning champions needed to avoid defeat to be sure of going through while only a victory would maintain their record of always winning their group at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. They must have been given a boost before the start when South Korea left out their five-goal marksman, Ji So-Yun, and also influential midfielder Kim Na-Rae. They made four changes in all as coach Choi In Cheul decided to rest his most impressive talents.
Considering all their changes, South Korea still gave a good account of themselves and saw a lot of the ball in the USA half. Down the left flank Jeoun Eun-Ha. one of those promoted to a starting role, caused some problems for the US defenders.
But the best openings were falling to the US with Leroux passing up a good chance in the 18th minute. She anticipated the cross coming in from the left and swung her boot at it but did not make a good connection.
That was forgotten three minutes later when Amber Brooks found Leroux with a neat through pass and the American captain got there ahead of Moon So-Ri to prod it into the net for her fifth goal of the tournament.
South Korea worked hard for an equaliser before the break and Kang Yumi put purpose behind her strike after Lee Hyun-Young had played her in. But Bianca Henninger was equal to it as she turned the ball over the top.
The east Asians brought on Ji at half-time and immediately she was in the thick of the action, sending a free-kick wide. In the 58th minute she was through with only the keeper to beat but Henninger saved well with her legs, mirroring a good save at the other end as Moon denied Leroux.
Ji and Leroux were now dominating the penalty-area action although the two goalkeepers were coming out on top. Ji misread the flight of a free-kick when it seemed that just a nudge from her would take the ball over the line. At the other end Moon parried to deny Teresa Noyola and again frustrated Leroux when the American was clean through.
Six minutes from time Leroux did manage to beat Moon in a race to meet a long ball but she was forced wide and her finish ended up going across the face of the goal and out for a goal-kick.