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Germany held as US and North Korea stride on

14 September 2007 17:20

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Defending women's World Cup champions Germany were held to a goalless draw by arch-rival England Friday as the United States and North Korea took giant steps towards the quarter-finals.

Argentina became the first team to be eliminated after falling 1-0 to Japan. The defeat followed their 11-0 thrashing by the Germans in their opening game.

With just one match left to play against England on Monday, the South American champions have no chance of qualifying from Group A, while England must win that game to keep their hopes alive.

Compared to their romp against Argentina, Germany had to work hard to earn a point in a drab 0-0 draw, unable to break down a solid English defense marshalled by captain and central defender Faye White.

The result leaves them top of their group ahead of Japan on goal difference with a crunch match between the two sides in Shanghai on Monday.

"I think that England played very well in defense," said German coach Silvia Neid, whose side have never lost to the English in 18 games.

"They stayed tight and never let us into space so that is the key to this draw."

Strike sensation Abby Wambach led the United States to an emphatic 2-0 victory over European powerhouse Sweden in Chengdu to put them on top of Group B alongside North Korea, who beat Nigeria 2-0.

The Americans take on the African champions on Tuesday and, bar an a major upset, will be in the knockout rounds.

Wambach, playing in her 98th international, scored both goals for the Americans to rip the heart out of the Swedes who finished runner-up in 2003.

"I'm so proud of my players, we knew this was potentially an elimination match against Sweden," said coach Greg Ryan.

Wambach, who suffered a bloodied head in the first match that needed stitches, struck in the 34th minute by cooly converting a penalty past goal goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

She then nailed victory for the Americans by chesting down inside the box a pinpoint pass from captain Kristine Lilly in the 58th minute, and unleashing a bullet from her left foot past a diving Lindahl.

"It's one of those goals that, as a forward, you say 'yeah I meant to put it exactly where it went', but in this type of situation I just hit it as hard as I could and it went in," Wambach said.

The Koreans stepped up their campaign to clinch a first-ever World Cup with first half goals from Kim Kyong Hwa and Ri Kum Suk.

The communist country look a serious contender for the trophy, with their endless fast and aggressive attacks causing all sorts of problems for the opposition.

"The next match we play against Sweden and we know that will be a very tough match, (but) we only have to beat Sweden to guarantee our success to move into the second stage of the tournament," said Korean coach Kim Kwang Min.

Japan left it late against Argentina, with Yuki Nagasato scoring an injury time winner that gives them a good shot at the quarter-finals.

"We had a hard time trying to score in the first half but I think the players played really well after the break," said Japan coach Hiroshi Ohashi.

"Winning the next game against Germany is what we are now focussing on."

For Argentina, it was the end of a heartbreaking campaign. They brought on two strikers as second half substitutes as they fought desperately to stay in the tournament to no avail.

"Today we suffered another painful loss," said coach Jose Borrello. "But the players game 100 percent and compared to the last match it was better."

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