Defending champion Germany tops Norway to reach WC final

TIANJIN, China &

Defending champion Germany reached the final of the Women's World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Norway today.

Germany will play the winner of Thursday's United States-Brazil semifinal, with the final set for Sunday in Shanghai.

An own goal by Norway's Trine Ronning just before halftime set Germany on its way, and it dominated the second half, with goals by Kerstin Stegemann and Martina Mueller.

Germany's performance was reminiscent of its 3-0 win over the United States in the semifinals of the 2003 World Cup.

Germany has gone 529 minutes without conceding a World Cup goal, dating back to the 2003 tournament. That broke the record of China, which had gone 442 minutes with a clean sheet across the 1999 and 2003 events.

For Norway, the loss was its first to European opposition at a World Cup, and an uncomfortable reminder of its 5-0 thumping in the semifinals of the 1999 World Cup.

Clear chances were hard to come by for Norway in the first half, with Leni Larsen Kaurin's miss-hit volley and Solveig Gulbrandsen's firm low shot from a corner the best efforts.

Germany attempted more intricate buildups than Norway, but could not find the final pass to set up a shooting opportunity.

Germany made a tactical substitution late in the first half, bringing on left-sided midfielder Fatmire Bajramaj, and the move had an immediate impact in the 42nd minute.

Bajramaj played a through-ball for Birgit Prinz, who whipped in a cross from the left, and Ronning &

attempting to block the ball with her chest &

only succeeded in diverting it into the net.

Germany almost doubled the lead in the first minute of the second half when Prinz cut back a ball in the box to the onrushing Sandra Smisek, but she was unable to control the shot and hit over the bar.

Norway struggled to find any rhythm in the second half, and was not helped by the loss of playmaker Gulbrandsen, who hobbled off in the 55th because of a thigh injury.

Germany delivered the killer blow in the 72nd minute. Off a quick break, Prinz played a ball inside to right back Kerstin Stegemann. Her shot took a deflection, looping beyond the reach of Norway goalkeeper Bente Nordby, onto the inside of the left post and into the net.

It was 3-0 in the 75th minute. A speculative longball by Stegemann pierced an uncertain Norway central defense, and substitute Siri Nordby underhit a backpass, allowing substitute Martina Mueller to steal in, take possession and shoot past the keeper.

Germany was dominating a dejected Norway and almost went up 4-0 in the 78th minute when Prinz, with yet another cutback from the right, found Bajramaj, whose firm shot rattled the crossbar.

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