WUHAN, China (AFP) - Defending champions Germany powered into the women's World Cup semi-finals Saturday with a 3-0 win over North Korea, shattering the hopes of the Asian number ones.
Kerstin Garefrekes pounced in the 44th minute and Renate Lingor and Annike Krahn hit the target in the second half to ensure Germany remain on track to be the only team to defend its title since the World Cup began 16 years ago.
It also kept intact their record of never having lost to an Asian team in World Cup history, having six wins out of six with 13 goals scored to none conceded.
Their victory sets up a semi-final against either host nation China or 1995 champions Norway in the northeastern city of Tianjin on Wednesday.
"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."
Germany went into the match at Wuhan Sports Center Stadium as clear favourites but wary of a North Korean side seen as the dark horses of the tournament after impressive form in the group games.
In a flowing first-half, Germany had the first chance in the seventh minute when Garefrekes sent a weak left-foot shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
A minute later Melanie Behringer let rip from 30 yards with her piledriver narrowly off target.
North Korea came close with 11 minutes on the clock as 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 brought roars from the sparse crowd in the 28th minute when Behringer whipped over a cross from the left and Sandra Smisek's diving header flew into the side-netting.
Midfielder Garefrekes finally got what Germany 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 with most of the opening 20 minutes played in Germany's half.
Three Korean players failed to find the net in a goalmouth scramble in the 64th minute and they came close soon after when Angerer pulled off an acrobatic save.
But Neid's charges soaked up the pressure and against the run of play Germany made it 2-0 in the 67th minute when 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 in the defeat.
"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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