THE DAY REPLAYED - If ever it was decreed from on high that women's football had to stop they would hastily convene a commemorative match featuring the teams of Germany and USA. No other countries have such a cosy relationship with the FIFA Women's World Cup. Winners in three of the four previous tournaments, their dominance has been all but supreme. Only once - in 1999 - have the two teams failed to appear in the semi-finals and that was because they met at the quarter-final stage when Germany went out.
Today the big battalions duly kept the sequence going, the wise old heads putting the young pretenders of Korea DPR and England in their place. It was 3-0 in each case although both games were considerably more even affairs than the scorelines suggest. Both Germany and USA had qualified from the group phase amid suggestions from some quarters that they were not the all-conquering forces of before - yes, even after the world champions' 11-0 Opening Match demolition of Argentina - but over the course of 180 minutes a big broom arrived to sweep those doubts aside.
They must wait to learn their next opponents until tomorrow's remaining quarter-final ties but whoever is next in line, it won't begin to ruffle the confidence that is always a big part of their dressing-room strength. They continue to believe their destiny is to meet in Shanghai on Sunday 30 September for a coronation. Who can deny them?
Angerer gets her wish
When she awoke in Wuhan, Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer wondered whether this would be the day when her wish would be granted. With her team denying any of their three previous opponents a goal she had been heard to joke that she could do with a bit more involvement. China 2007 was passing her by. She was a virtual spectator and she wanted to contribute more to the cause.
Angerer's big moment arrived in the 66th minute. North Korea were building a head of steam and threatening a retort to the sweet left-footer with which the rampaging Kerstin Garefrekes had broken the deadlock a minute before the interval. Ri Un-Gyong let fly and Angerer twisted to her right to pull off a miraculous save. She had earned her spurs and also the Player of the Match award which is some achievement for a goalkeeper in a 3-0 winning team.
The value of that save was revealed in the next six minutes as Silvia Neid's star-studded side went away and scored twice more through Renate Lingor and Annike Krahn. Finally the indefatigable legs of the North Korean side, such a revelation at China 2007, were at a standstill.
And so to the port city of Tianjin for USA v England. Who would come through: Hope Solo or Hope Powell? Wambach or White? The answer, as it so often is in big-tournament quarter-finals, was not England.
They had fancied their chances beforehand. After all they had
held Germany 0-0 in Shanghai so why not the Americans who, with
only five goals, had progressed to the last eight with their lowest
ever haul from the first three matches. This game emphasised the
folly of writing off Greg Ryan's selection as they ran in three
goals in the space of 12 minutes in the second half.
It was a swing in favour of the US that showcased the power and experience in their ranks. The scorers: Ally Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Kristine Lilly in that order, three players who were missing in January when the teams met and drew a match which served to end England's six-game losing streak against the Americans.
For Lilly - who like the other three captains on duty had broadcast a message of fair play to supporters before the start to mark 'World fair play day' - it was the fourth separate FIFA Women's World Cup in which she had scored. She duly joins an exclusive band of players that also contains the names of Birgit Prinz, Sun Wen, Bettina Wiegmann and Mia Hamm, but she will hope the milestones don't end there.