DPR Korea, Japan chase more history
Colonia del Sacramento: Saturday will go a long way towards determining the destiny of Asia's two remaining contenders at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay 2018, with Japan and DPR Korea both set for tough quarter-finals at Estadio Profesor Alberto Suppici.
Defending champions DPR Korea face a difficult tie against in-form Spain, while unbeaten Japan will meet first-time quarter-finalists New Zealand, with the two Asian sides to cross paths in Wednesday's semi-finals should they be successful.
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SPAIN v DPR KOREA Saturday: 14:00 (Local time)
Spain's status as a rising women's football power at senior level has been well documented, but their recent achievements at youth level put them among the world's best
The nation reached the final of this year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, and their U-17 side have featured in the past five finals at the UEFA Championship, winning two, and emphasising the quality results achieved across the youth spectrum.
The class of 2018 have been every bit as impressive in Uruguay. Their 4-0 win over Korea Republic on opening day set the tone, but it was Wednesday's thumping 5-0 victory over a previously perfect Canada that really caught the women's football world's attention.
Barcelona forward Claudia Pina has been the star of the show, contributing three goals in as many matches to follow the two she scored as a 15-year-old in the 2016 edition of the championship.
She also played, and scored, at the U-20 Women's World Cup in August, while Irene Lopez and Eva Navarro are among the other Spanish players to have stood out thus far.
DPR Korea, on the other hand, have endured a difficult path to the knockout stage, particularly following their sobering 4-1 loss to Germany on Matchday One, but the defending champions showed resilience to recover from that setback, advancing with wins over the United States and Cameroon.
While Kim Kyong-yong was the standout in DPR Korea's 2017 AFC U-16 Women's Championship triumph, one of the pleasing features of their campaign on the global stage has been the even contribution of a number of players.
Their six goals have come from six different sources, and Song Sung-gwon's charges appear to be improving as the tournament goes on - a trend that will need to continue if they are to defeat the excellent opponent that await them.
JAPAN v NEW ZEALAND
With FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup-winning head coach Futoshi Ikeda taking the reins less than two weeks before the tournament began, it would have been reasonable to wonder how Japan's team would have been impacted, but - based on their opening three games - they remain as strong as any side in the competition.
A slightly toothless performance in their opening day 0-0 draw with Brazil notwithstanding, Japan have eased into the knockout stage as Group B winners, setting up a quarter-final showdown with New Zealand.
The Little Nadeshiko's 6-0 win over South Africa was the clear highlight, but a case could easily be made for the 2014 winners being the better side in all three of their matches, including Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Mexico, who scored with their one and only shot on goal.
Haruka Osawa and 15-year-old Momoka Kinoshita have been among the standouts for Japan, who will face a New Zealand side appearing in the tournament's knockout stage for the first time.
Coached by Leon Birnie, the New Zealanders reached the last eight by virtue of narrow wins over Finland and Uruguay, but they will need to make history in order to take their campaign further.
Japan have lost just two of 29 previous matches at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, with their last defeat inside normal or extra-time coming against Ghana in Azerbaijan six years ago.
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images
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