WUHAN, China (AFP) - Ruthless defending champions Germany and the top ranked United States stormed into the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday, leaving North Korea and England to rue missed chances.
The Germans beat the Koreans 3-0 in Wuhan with Kerstin Garefrekes pouncing in the 44th minute and Renate Lingor and Annike Krahn hitting the target in the second half.
It ensured they remain on track to be the only team to defend their title since the World Cup began 16 years ago, with either host nation China or 1995 champions Norway their next opponents on Wednesday.
In Tianjin, double champions the United States also won 3-0, breaking down an English side angling for an upset to tee-up a semi-final against either Brazil or Australia in Hangzhou on Thursday.
England were shocked with three goals in 12 second-half minutes.
Rampaging forward Abby Wambach powered home a header three minutes after the break and England were suddenly on the ropes.
Shannon Boxx landed the second blow on 57 minutes, and three minutes later it was all over when veteran striker Kristine Lilly capitalised on goalkeeper Rachel Brown misreading a bouncing ball to convert the simplest of tap-ins.
"The first goal is always critical in a match. It was difficult for England to get their game going after that. They lost a bit of momentum, we kept pressing and went after them," said American coach Greg Ryan.
"It was very important to get that goal and we got two others very quickly."
England have now exited in the quarter-finals in both World Cups they have played after reaching the same stage in 1995. In contrast, the United States won two world titles in 1991 and 1999.
Germany's victory kept intact their record of never having lost to an Asian team in World Cup history, with six wins out of six and 13 goals scored to none conceded.
"North Korea was one of our favourites for the title so to beat them gives us a lot of optimism moving forward," said German coach Silvia Neid, declining to say whether she would rather face China or Norway next.
"We were very good in defence but it was a good team performance. We didn't give them space in midfield, which was key to the game, and we scored goals at the right time."
In a flowing first-half, North Korea had plenty of possession but failed to create enough chances.
Their best effort came when striker Kim Yong Ae broke free and toe-poked a shot under pressure. Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer half-saved but Ri Un Gyung was unable to take advantage of the loose ball.
Germany went close several times and midfielder Garefrekes finally got what they deserved in the 44th minute when she picked up the ball on the edge of the area and curled a left-foot shot past the diving Jon Myong-Hui.
Korea came out fired up in the second period but Neid's charges soaked up the pressure and against the run of play made it 2-0 in the 67th minute.
Sandra Smisek played a delicate backheel into the path of Lingor, who made no mistake.
With North Korea rattled, the Germans piled forward and Krahn put the game beyond doubt by kneeing home a Behringer corner with 18 minutes left.
Korean coach Kim Kwang Min said the physical difference between the two teams was a factor.
"It was a very difficult match for us. Physically the two teams are very different," he said.
"It's not a question of being lucky or not, we were just not as strong as the German team."
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