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Group B: Korea Republic 0-2 Japan

Chonburi: Japan sealed their place in the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 semi-finals on Thursday as they beat Korea Republic 2-0 on Thursday to remain top of the Group B standings.

Oto Kanno’s sublime first-half finish and Yuzuki Yamamoto's late strike proved the difference against a Korea Republic side who find themselves still in second spot despite China PR’s 5-1 win over Myanmar earlier in the day.

Reigning champions Japan will now head into Sunday’s meeting with China knowing that a draw would be enough to guarantee them top spot in the group as they seek a sixth Continental crown at this level.

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In a match between two sides who had impressed during their respective Matchday One victories, it was Japan who fashioned the first genuine chance, Yamamoto playing in Haruka Osawa only to see her fellow forward fire tamely into the arms of goalkeeper Kim Su-jeong on 12 minutes.

Japan were, though, to take the lead just moments later. Kanno (pictured below, right) moved into space before unleashing a superb strike from 18 yards which flew beyond Kim Su-jeong’’s despairing dive and into the top corner.

Japan defender Funaki then flashed a shot narrowly off target, before her firm header from a Kanno corner thudded against the Korean bar on 27 minutes.

As a pulsating opening period drew to a close, Korea Republic gradually began to gain a foothold with Kim Soo-jin and the ever-impressive Kang Ji-woo both firing inches wide of Momoko Tanaka’s right-hand upright when well placed.

Defences dominated in the early stages of the second half, although Misaki Morita could, and possibly should, have done better with a 67th minute angled drive that rippled the side netting.

As Japan continued to look for a second, Haruka Osawa dragged an effort past the post moments later, while Kanno brought a smart save out of Kim Su-jeong.

Japan duly made sure of the points on 84 minutes when Yamamoto (pictured above) side-footed home Funaki’s pinpoint cross to edge her side to within touching distance of the last four and leave their opponents needing to beat Myanmar on Matchday Three to remain in contention.

Hur Jung-jae: Korea Republic head coach

“We should have taken three points from this game and that is very disappointing. Nevertheless, we still have a chance to go through [to the semi-finals] so we will try our very best when we play our third group stage game. If we get the chance to play Japan again in this competition, I want to win.”

Futoshi Ikeda: Japan head coach

“I expected the game against Korea Republic was going to be a tough one and we played very well until the later stages of the match. I thought all my players understood exactly what I wanted in terms of tactics and that, I believe, was a very strong part of our play today. We were also able to stop their key players dribbling the ball and, as a whole, our defence was excellent.”

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