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Lauren Cheney (C) of USA celebrates after scoring during the Group C match USA against North Korea of FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament at the Rudolf Harbig Stadium in Dresden, Germany, on June 28, 2011. Photo by Jens Wolf/DPA/ABACAPRESS.COM
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US-Sweden in Group C finale

WOLFSBURG, Germany – Today at 2:30 p.m. the Women’s World Cup gets serious for the United States.

It’s scored two wins by a combined score of 5-0, but facing Sweden in its Group C finale will be its tallest test yet.

Star forward Abby Wambach has been knocking on the door with plenty of great scoring chances. If she breaks through or the U.S. keeps getting such balance – five goals from five different players – it has a good chance to do no worse than a tie.

A tie or win would help the United States avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals. But no matter who the U.S. faces in the quarterfinals, it’s sure nothing will be easy going forward.

Germany, England win top groups

Inka Grings scored twice as hosts Germany secured a third successive victory by beating France 4-2 Tuesday to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Japan at the women’s World Cup.

Meanwhile England beat Japan 2-0 to advance at the top of their group to set up a last-eight meeting against France.

Germany coach Silvia Neid favored Grings for World Cup record scorer Birgit Prinz in Moenchengladbach in one of four changes in the Group A game against a French side that had won their two opening matches against Nigeria and Canada.

Kerstin Garefrekes, wearing the captain’s armband in place of Prinz, headed the Germans ahead in the 25th minute when she got on the end of a free-kick from Babett Peter.

Grings, starting for the first time in the tournament after two appearances as a substitute, headed the second seven minutes from a cross by from the left by Simone Laudehr.

Marie-Laure Delie pulled one back for France with a 56th-minute header from a corner, before Grings notched her second in the 68th from the penalty spot after Fatmire Bajramaj was brought down by keeper Berangere Sapowicz who was shown the red card.

France stayed in the game when poor marking again from a corner allowed Laura Georges a free header into goal four minutes later, but Germany made sure of the points when Celia Okoyino da Mbabi rifled in a fourth in the 89th.

“We played very, very well today and got into the game right away,” said Neid.

“I think we have now arrived in the tournament. We will now prepare intensively for the Japanese. They won’t be an easy opponent.”

Grings, who was voted player of the match, said: “I think we have seen a really good game and we have shown that we can play football.”

Goals in each half from Ellen White and Rachel Yankey gave England victory over Japan in Augsburg to finish top of Group B on seven points, leapfrogging Japan who finished a point behind.

White finished superbly to put England ahead in the 22nd minute.

The 22-year-old Arsenal Ladies striker ran on to a long ball from Karen Carney and from the edge of the area lobbed keeper Ayumi Kaihori with a first-time volley.

Substitute Rachel Yankey controlled a cross from Rachel Unitt in the 66th minute and neatly chipped Kaihori in goal for the second.

“We were very, very good today,” said England coach Hope Powell.

“You’ve got to respect Japan and the way they play, but we had a gameplan and we implemented it.

“The ambition was to get out of the group and top the group and we’ve done that. We’re in the quarters and we’ll have to do our best.”

The first two quarterfinals are set for Saturday, with England to play France in Leverkusen, while Germany plays Japan in Wolfsburg.

In Sinsheim, New Zealand scored two late goals to draw 2-2 with Mexico in Group B

Stephany Mayor in the second minute and Maribel Dominguez in the 29th put Mexico in front before Rebecca Smith headed a last-minute goal for New Zealand who then struck an equalizer through Hannah Wilkinson in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Mexico finished third in the group on two points, while New Zealand goes home with a point.

Group watch

In Group A, Nigeria finished third behind Germany and France after defeating Canada 1-0 courtesy of a goal five minutes from time from Perpetua Nkwocha. The match in Dresden was interrupted for 10 minutes after a power failure.

The tournament continues today with final matches in both Group C and Group D.

In Group C, the United States and Sweden – who have both already qualified for the last eight – are battling in Wolfsburg for the top spot in the group, while North Korea meets Colombia in Bochum.

In Group D, already-qualified Brazil play Equatorial Guinea in Frankfurt, while Australia could also go through if they avoid defeat against Norway in Leverkusen.