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Women's Asian Cup: Japan cruise into quarters; Korea keep hopes alive

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Pune, Jan 24 (IANS) Two-time defending champions Japan registered their second successive win to cruise into the quarter-finals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup football championships. South Korea moved to the verge of the last-eight stage on Monday with a 2-0 win over a resolute Myanmar side in another Group C match played at Pune’s Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi.

The win took Japan to six points from two matches and they, together with Korea Republic — who defeated Myanmar 2-0 earlier on Monday — are assured of a top-two finish. Yui Narumiya scored a brace of goals in the 38th minute and 58th minute while Saki Kumagai contributed one goal in the 56th minute.

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The two East Asian rivals will meet on Thursday to decide the top spot while Vietnam will aim to defeat Myanmar to stand a chance of claiming one of the two best third-placed slots into the knockout stage.

Japan, defending the AFC Women’s Asian Cup titles won in 2014 and 2018, started with their confidence high following the 5-0 win over Myanmar on Matchday One with head coach Futoshi Ikeda only retaining captain Saki Kumagai, Risa Shimizu and Mina Tanaka in his starting lineup.

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Japan seized control from the start and found an opening in the fourth minute when Yui Narumiya received Ruka Norimatsu’s cross into the area, but she failed to get her volley on target.

Earlier in the first match of the day, Lee Geum-min opened the scoring for South Korea four minutes into the second half and Ji So-Yun, the game’s Most Valuable Player, played a major part in the second — an own goal — seven minutes from time, meaning the Koreans will advance to the quarter-finals if Japan defeat Vietnam in Monday’s late game.

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The Koreans looked set to make light work of their opponents, with Cho So-Hyun heading wide inside the first minute, but Myanmar frustrated Bell’s side as the first half wore on, forcing the English coach to take action.

Korea Republic’s attack had been disappointing, with several limp efforts before Cho’s second-headed attempt hit the side netting prompting the introduction of Ji off the bench for Son Hwa-Yeon with 11 minutes left in the half.

The midfielder was expected to inject greater quality into Korea Republic’s attacking endeavours and the Chelsea star saw her own effort from distance fly wide of the target seven minutes after coming on.

Lim Seon-Joo’s attempt at a flying volley was also wide of the target while, in added time, the Koreans were frustrated again when Choo Hyo-Joo’s shot was parried by May Zin Nwe before the Myanmar goalkeeper dived bravely at the feet of Jang Sel-gi.

–IANS

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