Despite Japan coming into the game as significant favourites, South Africa were more than a match for them in the opening 45 minutes. Although the world champions controlled possession in the opening stages, their usual creative spark was lacking and they only created two chances of note.
The first came in the 12th minute when Kozue Ando supplied Karina Maruyama on the right side of the box, but Thokozile Mndaweni was on hand to save well. Then Ando almost caught Mndaweni out with a cross-cum-shot which the goalkeeper palmed away.
At the other end of the field, Portia Modise created Banyana Banyana’s best chance, shooting from way outside the penalty box just inches over the crossbar.
The second half was more of the same. The ball barely left the midfield zone, with Japan’s only apparent concern being not to concede any goals, which never really looked like happening.
Asuna Tanaka flashed two headers off-target from corner kicks, but that was the sum total of the goalmouth action. Japan, who finished second in Group F, meet the runners-up from Group E also in Cardiff on Friday.