PALEMBANG, INDONESIA – Japan advanced to the semifinals in the Asian Games women’s soccer tournament on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over defending champion North Korea.
Both sides fought aggressively from the beginning until the final whistle at Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, but it was Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi who scored the opening goal in the 40th minute.
Yui Hasegawa added another goal in the 62nd minute to double Japan’s lead, before North Korea’s Kim Nam Hui converted a penalty nine minutes later.
In a rematch of the last Asian Games final, where Japan suffered a 3-1 loss, Nadeshiko Japan this time turned the situation around. Nadeshiko also fell to North Korea in the women’s E-1 Football Championship last December.
Japan survived multiple scares from the get-go, but ‘keeper Ayaka Yamashita made a couple of superb saves to ensure manager Asako Takakura’s side a spot in Tuesday’s semifinal against South Korea.
“We knew this match would be a tough one because we were facing North Korea,” Takakura said. “The first half was stressful because we made some small mistakes throughout, but it was good we scored the first goal.
“I think we could’ve done better. But the players didn’t stop running until the end, so I want to tell them that we overcame one hurdle in our campaign.”
China and Thailand were scheduled to face each other in another quarterfinal match on Saturday night.