Germany secured its passage to the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup final with an assertive 3-0 victory over European rivals Norway in semifinal action Wednesday in Tianjin, China.
Kerstin Stegemann and Martina Mueller scored for the defending champions, who also benefited from a Norwegian own goal.
Nadine Angerer posted the shutout for the Germans, who have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
Germany awaits thewinner of Thursday's semifinal between the top-ranked United States and Brazil in Hangzhou (CBC, 7:45 a.m. ET). The championship game is Sunday in Shanghai (CBC, 7:45 a.m.).
The Germans, who will be appearing in their third World Cup final in five tries, are attempting to be the first women's team to repeat as World Cup champions and from the way they performed Wednesday, it may not be wise to bet against them.
Fans in Tianjin couldn't have asked for a better start to Wednesday's match between 1995 world champions Norway and 2003 titlists Germany.
In what host commentator John Helm described as a "breathless" opening half, the two squads entertained the crowd with end-to-end, virtually non-stop action for 45 minutes.
The Scandinavians held the advantage for much of the first half, with a 6-0edge in shots on target,but luck just wasn't on their side.
An own goal by Norway's Trine Ronning just before half-time gave Germany the only goal it needed and the defending champs cruised from there.
Substitute adds spark
Sensing a need for change on the left flank, German head coach Silvia Neid pulled regular starter Melanie Behringer after 40 minutes and replaced her with 19-year-oldFatmire Bajramaj.
Two minutes later, Neid looked like a genius.
Bajramajreceived the ball in the middle third,dribbled up field before releasing Birgit Prinzdown the wing.The three-time FIFA world women's player of the year powered her way into the 18-yard box and as shestepped inside, fired a crossthatcareened offRonning and into the Norwegiannet.
"It was tough in the beginning, but our defense did very well, we didn't allow any chances, particularly to [tournament top scorer] Ragnhild Gulbrandsen," Neid said. "The players realized we were not giving chances and that helps them with self-confidence, then we scored at the right moment."
Prinz was also the architect of Stegemann's seventh career goal.
In the 72nd minute, Prinz worked the ball low in the penalty area of the Norwegian crease before cutting the ball back to Stegemann, who had joined the attack late.
The stalwart defender, playing in her 161st game for Germany, one-timed a shot that took a deflectionoff a defender, looped over the head of Norway's goalkeeper Bente Nordby, off the far post and into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Germany capitalized on a defensive errorjust three minutes later,which allowedMueller to race in andcalmly place the ball into the back of the net.
Germany has now gone 529 minutes without giving up aWorld Cup goal,dating back to the2003 tournament. The current streak brokeChina's record of442 minutes, which spanned between the 1999 and 2003events.
Norway will play the loser of Thursday's semifinal for third place in the tournament and coach Bjarne Berntsen said his team does not want to go home without a reward.
"We had a goal to fight for the medals and we don't have one yet,so we have to work very hard to get the team ready for Sunday."
Berntsen'ssquad will have a few days to mend their broken hearts and sore bodies. Defender Gunhild Folstad and creative midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen had to be taken off during Wednesday's match due to injuries, though Gulbrandsen said shewasfine and did not need to betaken off.
"He said [that I took a knock to the knee], but he must have seen something I didn't see, because I didn't get injured," said Gulbrandsen, who has played the past two game with a heavily taped thigh.