Japan seal Olympic qualification with victory over North Korea

TOKYO   -   Japan survived a late scare to hand North Korea a 2-1 defeat at National Stadium in Tokyo on Wednesday to secure qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris for Futoshi Ikeda’s side. Goals from Hana Takahashi and Aoba Fujino gave the Japanese a twogoal lead after a scoreless draw in the opening leg in Jeddah on Saturday, although a late strike from Kim Hye Yong gave the North Koreans hope. The result means the Japanese take one of Asia’s two spots at the Olympics, with Australia also due to represent the confederation in Paris at the 12-team event following their comprehensive win over Uzbekistan. Takahashi pounced to give Japan a 25th-minute lead after North Korean goalkeeper Pak Ju Mi had tipped Minami Tanaka’s header onto the crossbar, the defender storming in to poke a left-foot shot over the line from close range. Fujino then shot over the bar from distance in the 34th minute as the Japanese sought a second, although Ikeda’s side were fortunate to reach the interval still ahead. Goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita was on hand to prevent the North Koreans from levelling in the dying moments of the half when she clawed Choe Kum Ok’s goal-bound strike off the line at full stretch.

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