TOKYO, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Mexico's America scraped a 1-0 victory over South Korea's Chonbuk Motors on Monday to set up a dream semi-final with Barcelona at the Club World Cup.
Central defender Ricardo Rojas scrambled the winner from close range in the 79th minute after CONCACAF champions America had survived several second-half alarms.
America, 14-times champions of Mexico, will face hot favourites Barcelona in the tournament's second semi-final in Yokohama on Thursday.
'We didn't take our chances early on and that nearly cost us,' America coach Luis Fernando Tena told reporters, adding that his side would need more luck against the European champions.
'We will need some luck for sure,' said Tena. 'Barcelona are the best team in the world... It is almost a perfect team.'
African champions Al Ahli beat semi-professional Auckland City 2-0 in Sunday's curtain raiser to earn a crack at Brazil's Internacional. The final is in Yokohama on Dec. 17.
America came closest in a moribund first half when Chonbuk goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae raced from his line in the eighth minute only to present the ball straight to Argentine Claudio Lopez.
The former Valencia and Lazio striker snatched at the unexpected chance, however, hooking just wide from 25 metres as a prostrate Kwoun watched on helplessly.
Substitute Botti almost fired Asian champions Chonbuk in front in the 62nd minute but America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa plunged to his left to make a superb reflex save.
Fellow Brazilian Zecarlo then forced Ochoa into another decent block eight minutes later following a powerful run down the left.
But America snatched victory against the run of play when Salvador Cabanas's low cross was bundled over the line by Chilean Rojas as Kwoun struggled in vain to claw the ball out.
'Our team is young and inexperienced,' said Chonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee. 'We were a little intimidated in the first half. If we had taken our chances it might have been different.'
Barcelona and Libertadores Cup holders Internacional are scheduled to meet in the final of the competition involving the world's six continental champions.
Brazil's Sao Paulo edged out Liverpool 1-0 in last year's final to win the first edition of the revamped FIFA tournament.