Mizhuo Sakaguchi scored what turned out to be the deciding goal in the 78th minute as defending Women's World Cup champion Japan held off a late attack to beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Saori Ariyoshi opened the scoring for the Asian champions in the 10th minute, pouncing on a loose ball after had looped off the Netherlands' crossbar and smashing her drive home.
Sakaguchi doubled Japan's lead in the 76th minute, shortly after Japan nearly scored an own goal. Sherida Spitse took a corner for the Dutch and the ball deflected off Aya Sameshima toward her own net when keeper Ayumi Kaihori punched it away with her right fist.
Japan raced down the other end and Sakaguchi turned in a brilliant left-footed strike after some intricate build up play.
Kirsten van de Ven scored for the Netherlands in extra time in bizarre circumstances, with her seemingly innocuous header bouncing off keeper Kaihori's right arm and into the net.
Japan overpowered the young Dutch squad for much of the evening at BC Place by controlling possession in the midfield to create chances, and the defense pushed far up the field. The Nadeshiko, who along with Brazil were the only teams to win all three group-stage games, advance to the quarterfinal against Australia on Saturday at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
They stuck with their familiar World Cup trend, too. Five of Japan's six goals have come in the 29th minute or earlier, and all six have been scored by a different player.
Japan, with its hustle and fancy footwork on display for a crowd of 28,717, ran its game plan with precision to control all of the field against an overmatched Netherlands team making its World Cup debut.
On the early scoring play, Aya Miyama dribbled down the left sideline and crossed to Yuki Ogimi, whose header hit the crossbar and Dutch defender Merel van Dongen couldn't clear the rebound. Ariyoshi then connected from about 15 yards out and put the ball in the lower corner past diving goalkeeper Loes Geurts.
Japan had another solid chance in the 22nd minute on a pretty give-and-go from Sameshima to Shinobu Ohno that Sameshima struck over the bar. Ohno also missed an open header moments before the first-half whistle.
Even when the Netherlands threatened early, it seemed a step slow.
Manon Melis had a great chance in the seventh minute but couldn't get a foot on it. In the 48th, 18-year-old forward Vivianne Miedema got the ball near the top left corner of the box and opted to dribble into traffic rather than take a quick shot. The Dutch missed making contact on two headers from the same ball high in the box in the 73rd minute.
Japan's Homare Sawa, playing her sixth and final World Cup, entered in the 80th minute after starting two of the team's three matches in the group stage.
The Netherlands missed a chance to qualify for next summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympics as one of Europe's top three teams, but could still earn a berth into the 12-team Olympic field through a European playoff.
The white teddy bear wearing an oversized No. 7 jersey that Japan keeps close to honor injured teammate Kozue Ando held its spot on the bench. Ando broke her left ankle in the World Cup opener against Switzerland in Group C play when she got caught up with Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann.