Holders Germany powered into the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup with a 3-0 win over Norway in Tianjin. The result did not paint the full picture, however, with the Scandinavians running their rivals close for much of the game until quick-fire goals from Kerstin Stegemann and Martina Mueller in the last 20 minutes put the game beyond their reach.
Luck also deserted the Norwegians when they conceded their first two goals, an own goal and a deflected strike contriving to put them 2-0 behind. Birgit Prinz played a key hand in both of those efforts, and the winner of tomorrow's second semi-final between USA and Brazil will have their hands full trying to contain her.
If Germany fans were disappointed to see Melanie Behringer leave the field on 40 minutes, then this disappointment quickly turned to joy when they opened the scoring two minutes later. The move emanated from the feet of her replacement, Fatmire Bajramaj, who raced from the edge of her own box into the opposition half before releasing Prinz. The No9 powered to the byline and from her cut-back, the luckless Trine Ronning turned the ball into her own net.
Prinz then combined strength and invention to tee up Stegemann for Germany's second, the latter's strike taking a wicked deflection off a Norwegian defender and looping over Bente Nordby and in off the post. Two quickly became three, Mueller sprinting on to a loose pass-back to slide the ball past the Norway No1 for the 100th goal of the tournament.
Norway, though, can take heart from a positive performance against formidable opponents. Bjarne Berntsen's side had 49 per cent of the possession, registered 13 shots and earned seven corners to their adversaries' three.
They will now look to take the bronze medal home from an
impressive campaign, which included progressing to the knockout
stage as Group C winners and then eliminating hosts China PR.
However, it is Germany who can now look forward to their third FIFA
Women's World Cup final in Shanghai on Sunday.
Player of the Match: Birgit Prinz