CARDIFF, Wales (AP) -- World champion Japan drew 0-0 with South Africa on Tuesday in Olympic women's soccer, a result the coach said he was playing for to avoid having to travel to Scotland for the quarterfinals.
The outcome left Japan second in Group F, meaning it will now play either Britain or Brazil in Cardiff on Friday. If it had won the match, it would have faced the top-ranked United States or France, another strong team, in Glasgow, also on Friday.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki used substitutes in the second half and told them to keep possession and not score, based on how the other match in Group F was going. In that match, Canada drew 2-2 with Sweden, meaning Sweden topped the group.
"It was a different way of playing compared to the usual game, but the players were on the same page as me," he said.
"I feel sorry we couldn't show a respectable game, but it's my responsibility, not the players', why the game was like that. It was important for us not to move to Glasgow."
The match at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium was played under a roof, the first time that has happened in Olympic soccer.
Sasaki, his team already secured a quarterfinal spot, began the match with just four regular starters.
In the 18th minute, Japan captain Kouze Ando had a good chance, but sent a header wide. The team appeared to show more bite after veteran attacking midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi was brought in the second half.
Ando had another chance to score just past the hour mark but missed from close range. Minutes later, Asuna Tanaka headed over the bar from a decent position.
Having beaten the U.S. last year in Germany to win the World Cup, Japan is now seeking to win its first Olympic medal in three consecutive attempts. South Africa's young team, all but one who are students, had no clear chances. It had already been eliminated from the competition.