US set up German revenge mission
THE DAY REPLAYED: The group stage is over and the quarter-final line-up complete. After the first four teams from Groups A and B took their places yesterday, the remaining fixtures were decided today, with Korea DPR setting up a last eight clash with France and USA earning the right to a titanic tussle with the Germans.
The latter of these two fixtures represents a mouth-watering meeting of the tournament's two previous winners, and was set up courtesy of the Koreans preserving their unblemished record in Group C and Tim Schulz's Americans claiming the spoils from the meeting of Group D's top two.
As with yesterday, the matches began on a poignant note with a minute's silence for the victims of the flight FV 612, and the tribute was particularly moving in St Petersburg, to where the plane had departed from the Black Sea resort of Anapa. Once the silence had been impeccably observed, the action got underway and the goals soon began to flow.
Group C: Germans' six appeal no match for Korea DPR
Korea DPR may have started the tournament unknown and largely unfancied , but they are surprise packages no more. Mexico certainly showed just how much respect the group leaders have accrued by effectively starting this match with a six-strong defence, and yet even sheer weight of numbers couldn't keep the Koreans at bay.
"They have very quick, skilful players and play very well as a team," Mexico's coach, Leonardo Cuellar said of the worthy group winners. "They play like a well-oiled machine."
Such a warm compliment will doubtless have delighted Choe Kwang Sok, whose side - backed by their now-familiar band of noisy and good-natured bottle-waving fans - raced into a 3-0 half-time lead without ever really hitting top gear.
Kim Hyang Mi broke the deadlock in 33 minutes, barging her way through the heart of the Mexican defence to slip the ball home, and two minutes later the advantage was doubled with an absolute peach of a long-range free-kick from Kim Kyong Hwa. An even more comfortable half-time cushion was provided when Kil Son Hui slotted home from close range for the Koreans' third goal nine minutes before the break, and a resounding victory was rounded off a minute before the hour-mark by O Kum Hui.
The match also saw Korea DPR rack up their third consecutive clean sheet, a record only Brazil can match at Russia 2006, and with 10 goals they are also the tournament's third-top scorers behind Germany (15) and Nigerian (11).
The Germans themselves continued their impressive recovery from that opening match defeat to Choe's team with a thumping 6-0 win over Switzerland. Thought it was universally agreed afterwards that the scoreline flattered the holders considerably, they did register twice the number of shots on goal that the Swiss could muster (12 to six) and emerged as deserved winners.
Nevertheless, coach Maren Meinert spoke afterwards about "errors in the team" that had caused Germany unnecessary problems. "It's something we'll be working on," she vowed.
Group D: USA edge France as Argentina finish with a flourish
In the evening matches, Moscow's Dynamo stadium played host to one of the most evenly-matched and keenly-contested encounters of Russia 2006 thus far as France and the USA faced off for top spot in Group D.
The Americans, tournament winners in 2002 , began the match as favourites and largely justified their billing in a first half that saw the lively Amy Rodriguez miss the best of their chances. At the other end, Elodie Thomis' increasingly frustrating search for a goal continues, with the striker - whose confidence seems to be steadily ebbing away - showing electric pace to burst through on goal only to be denied by Val Henderson, who stood tall to make the save.
Remarkably, Henderson became the third goalkeeper to be used by US coach Schulz in as many matches, and she more than earned her place in the second half with a superb double save to frustrate the French, for whom Amandine Henry was thwarted from all of four yards.
Stepane Pilard's side, who had by this stage lost Coralie Duscher to a suspected broken wrist, were then left to curse their inability to find the net when American substitute Jessica Rostedt - who made a huge impact in the second half - lashed the ball home from the edge of the box.
For the US, that goal sets up an eagerly-anticipated chance to claim revenge on the Germans, who knocked them out at the semi-final stage of Thailand 2004 .
At the other end of the group, meanwhile, 10-woman Argentina handed the wooden spoon to Congo DR along with a comprehensive 4-0 defeat in which the impressive Ludmila Manicler bagged the tournament's third hat-trick. Even the 68th-minute dismissal of Gabriela Chavez for kicking out at Tresorine Nzuzi couldn't knock Jose Carlos Borrello's team off their stride, and they head for home with pride very much restored.