Daniel Sturridge's goal on the stroke of half-time was enough for Stuart Pearce's side to join the women in the last eight, against a disappointing Uruguay who showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately deserved to go out of the tournament.
Both sides created a handful of opportunities, with Martin Campana keeping out a Sturridge curler and Britain keeper Jack Butland making two good stops from Luis Suarez.
Gaston Ramirez hit the bar in injury time for Oscar Tabarez's side but the tournament was long gone for his side, who needed victory while the hosts just required a point to progress.
Britain face South Korea in the quarter-finals on Saturday, with the winners of that clash either playing Brazil or Honduras for a place in the final.
Senegal, meanwhile finish second in the group after a 1-1 draw with UAE and must play Mexico for a place in the last four.
The near-capacity crowd in Wales were disappointed to hear that iconic midfielder Ryan Giggs had been omitted from the starting line-up, but the decision was once again vindicated as Britain’s pace from wide positions caused Uruguay problems from the off.
Uncharacteristically though, the Brits were keeping possession better than the South Americans, as Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Tom Cleverley showed that you do not have to speak Spanish to pass the ball.
The first half was still a touch scrappy, although most of the half-chances fell to the hosts as livewire forward Craig Bellamy wreaked havoc down the right wing while Ramsey pulled the strings in midfield.
The first genuine attempt resulted in a goal as, with the clock ticking to half time, a superb turn from Allen in the Uruguay box took out two defenders and allowed Sturridge to finish from close range.
The dying seconds of the half saw Luis Suarez – Uruguay’s best player but unable to find a finish to match his skill – smash the ball wide after a fine touch from a long ball.
The Liverpool forward, heartily booed whenever he touched the ball, was mercurial as ever, causing plenty of problems with his second-half dribbling but booked after repeatedly handling in the Britain box, much the amusement of the home fans.
Booking came freely for Uruguay, who committed some reckless challenges as the match wore on and indulged in some typical gamesmanship in the closing stages.
They should only have been frustrated with themselves as, aside from a pair of Suarez efforts that Butland equalled, the likes of Edinson Cavani and Gaston Ramirez were hugely disappointing until the latter found the woodwork in the sixth minute of injury time.
Britain were long-qualified anyway, Senegal only managing a draw with UAE and Uruguay needing to score twice to take Pearce’s side’s place in the last eight.
Egypt, who endured a torrid start to the competition when they trailed Brazil 3-0 in their opening match, completed a remarkable recovery by reaching the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Belarus on Wednesday.
The gold medal favourite Brazilians, meanwhile, completed their perfect run of three straight wins when they beat New Zealand 3-0 at St James' Park in Newcastle.
Egypt, bedraggled and bewildered against Brazil at the start, finished that match narrow 3-2 losers and, inspired by that fightback, finished the group phase in some style by leapfrogging Belarus into second place.
But late on Wednesday the club announced to Egyptian media the players would be allowed to stay with the squad.
Belarus just needed a draw to qualify but Egypt, who finished second to Brazil with four points, will now face either Japan, Honduras or Morocco in the quarter-finals at Old Trafford on Saturday.
They won with goals from Mohamed Salah, substitute Marwan Mohsen and Mohamed Aboutrika, whose third in the 78th minute sealed the game. Andrei Voronkov scored a late consolation for Belarus four minutes from time.
Brazil had their match against New Zealand wrapped up in the first 30 minutes. Danilo and Leandro Damiao scored the first two and Sandro added the third six minutes into the second half.
- Related links