Prinz, England ensure records fall
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED - Still the accolades keep piling up for Birgit Prinz. Besides her medals for winning the FIFA Women's World Cup, Olympic bronze and UEFA European Championship gold, countless awards for club and country as well as garlands acknowledging the fact that on three successive occasions she was named FIFA World Player, the brilliant German now stands alone as the leading FIFA Women's World Cup goalscorer of all time.

Her 114th international strike - and, crucially, her 13th at this event, taking her beyond USA's Michelle Akers who recorded 12 between 1991 and 1999 - sealed her country's progression to the quarter-finals as winners of Group A with a 2-0 victory over Japan who now go home. England also advanced from the section after they completed a horrible campaign for luckless Argentina with a 6-1 win.

There was some anxiety for England before the start of the game. Would Argentina capsize when put under pressure like they did a week ago in the Opening Match when Germany ran in eleven goals without reply? Or would they present the more obdurate face they showed Japan before succumbing to a goal in injury time.

The answer arrived in the ninth minute in Chengdu when a long ball into the box, aimed way beyond the England attackers and offering no real threat, found the Argentina captain Eva Gonzalez unbalanced and uncertain. She stretched to make contact with the ball and to her horror headed it past her own goalkeeper. Another unlikely goal arrived a minute later with Jill Scott's effort emerging out of an attempted tackle some way outside the penalty area. Once again Romina Ferro was beaten and that lent Hope Powell's team the margin of victory they needed in the event of the other game ending as a draw.

The third came via the penalty spot, Fara Williams converting, before Argentina scored their first of the tournament with Gonzalez happy to find the net at the other end this time. It came direct from the free-kick which is becoming a common occurrence at China 2007 - indeed all three goals conceded by England have come this way.

Argentine firsts
One more goal and Carlos Borrello's inexperienced team would have a record of their own, that of the country conceding the most goals at a FIFA Women's World Cup. With 15 scored against them in 2003 they already shared the worst mark along with Mexico (1999). England's fourth, back-heeled in by Kelly Smith, raised that total to 16 and it was to become 17 when Smith got her second of the game and fourth for the tournament with 13 minutes remaining. A second penalty, rammed home by Vicky Exley this time, made it 6-1 (easily England's best in this competition) and to cap a miserable evening - and dismal tournament - for Argentina they also became the first to have a player sent off at this tournament when Catalina Perez was dismissed following a second yellow card.

There was another penalty in Hangzhou when Martina Mueller was brought down and it enabled Renate Lingor to seal a two-goal victory for the world champions who had things mostly their own way against Japan. They were denied a bigger margin of victory by the exploits of opposition goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto, which began early on with a wonder save from Petra Wimbersky.

A corner in the 21st minute paved the way for Prinz's moment of history as the Germany captain - who first scored in a FIFA Women's World Cup in 1995 against Brazil - was allowed time in the penalty area to lash the ball high into the net. Sandra Smisek hit the bar as the Germans kept the pressure on without ever threatening another goal blitz but perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised at that. Germany may have now won all six head-to-heads with Japan but they tend to be narrow affairs, four of the victories coming by a single-goal margin. That will be of no concern to Silvia Neid's team tonight: the first part of their title defence is done.