TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Germany's World Cup machine is getting into high gear as the defending champions prepare for their crunch semi-final against arch-rivals Norway on Wednesday.
Displaying trademark precision in the 3-0 win over North Korea, Germany's women feel they are finally hitting their stride after an uneven performance in the group stages.
After romping to an 11-0 win over Argentina, Germany were held 0-0 by England before beating Japan 2-0 to top Group A.
The Germans, just two wins away from the first ever back-to-back titles, head into Wednesday's semi-final unbeaten and without conceding a single goal in four matches.
"We beat Argentina 11-0 but the other two group games weren't so strong as the North Korea game," said four-goal striker Birgit Prinz.
"So hopefully we will peak at the last minute."
Germany's four-match shut-out is unprecedented in the World Cup and, after 439 minutes without conceding, they need just three minutes of playing time to beat China's record set between 1999-2003.
However, the Germans are aware of the threat posed by Norway, their conquerors in the 1995 final ranked just two places below them at fourth.
Norway have beaten and drawn against Germany this year and will be eager to avenge their 2005 European final defeat, the latest in a long line of reverses in the competition.
"This is a World Cup semi-final. It will be a high-speed game, the teams are well balanced and you can't predict who's going to win," said Germany coach Silvia Neid.
"The winner will be decided by little things. It will definitely be a close game."
Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen said his task had been made harder by scheduling which has left his team playing three games in a week.
"Against Germany it is going to be very tough. We have three games in seven days while they have three games in 10 days," Berntsen said.
"That's a big disadvantage for us and we have to work really hard to be ready for Wednesday."
The teams have met only once before in the World Cup, the 1995 final which Norway won 2-0. It is only the second all-European semi-final after Norway beat Sweden 4-1 in 1991.
"I've played a lot of games against Norway. My first memory is the World Cup final in 1995 and we lost, so it's not a good memory," said Prinz.
"We're hoping to leave here with a better memory."
Norway, led by joint top-scorer Ragnhild Gulbrandsen (five), have never lost to European competition in the World Cup and are also expecting a tight match.
"I think it will be two very good and very closely-matched teams. We played against them before coming here and drew 2-2, so we know we can match them," said striker Isabell Herlovsen.
"They are a good side and it will be tough for us. But we will go into the game with confidence."
The stakes are especially high for Germany, who are bidding to host the next World Cup in 2011 and have extended the contract of coach Neid until then.
"Feeling this trust is a nice thing," she said.
The other semi-final between the United States and Brazil is played in Hangzhou on Thursday.
|Augusto: I convinced Oscar to come to China|
|Madrid-bound Maradona visits Napoli training|
|Sevilla in no rush over Sampaoli talks despite Barcelona links|
|Cafu: Resurgent Brazil can challenge world´s best|
|Klopp thrilled with Coutinho|
|Manchester United replace Real Madrid as world´s richest club|
|Madrid squad annoyed by defeats - Zidane wants more energy after latest loss|
|Casemiro rues more misery for Madrid against Celta|
|´Job done, let´s go home´ - Klopp happy to avoid extra time with narrow Plymouth win|
|FA Cup Review: Southampton leave it late to beat Norwich|
|Real Madrid 1 Celta Vigo 2: Aspas and Jonny extend Madrid winless run|
|Plymouth Argyle 0 Liverpool 1: Rare Lucas goal sees Klopp´s men through|
|Manchester City in La La Land as Schalke toil underground|
|Cameroon 2 Guinea-Bissau 1: Ngadeu-Ngadjui completes comeback to send Broos´ men top|
|Monaco confirm signing of Ajax teenager Antonucci|
|Manchester United´s interest in Griezmann is unsurprising - Simeone|
|Bamford ends spell in Chelsea wilderness with Boro return|
|Louis the great - Luis Enrique explains his and Barca´s debt to Van Gaal|
|Gabon 1 Burkina Faso 1: Spot-on Aubameyang makes his point|
|PSG send Ikone on loan to Montpellier|
|Senegal v Zimbabwe: Cisse wants to live up to favourites tag|
|Ghana´s Rahman leaves AFCON with knee injury|
|Algeria v Tunisia: Mahrez demands improvement in crucial Group B clash|
|Dortmund forward Dembele hits out at Bundesliga refereeing|
|Robben hopes Alonso stays at Bayern amid retirement rumours|
|Asian champions Jeonbuk banned from 2017 Champions League|
|Rakitic still an important player for Barcelona - Luis Enrique|
|Jesus will develop quicker at City - Emerson|
|Always take the weather with you - Spanish snow blights CSKA´s training camp|
|Messi never gave Coach interview, claims father|
|Gotze questions critics but admits to falling short of expecations|
|´Conte can have our title´ - Ranieri wants Chelsea to win the Premier League|
|Tottenham reject Premier League, Bundesliga offers for Wimmer|
|Liverpool sell Ilori to Reading|
|Potential victims in football abuse probe surpasses 500|
|Bonaventura signs new AC Milan contract|
|Messi: Ronaldo has achieved great things|
|Koscielny: Wenger has built men at Arsenal|
|Messi vows to stay at Barcelona ´for as long as they want me´|
|Cafu adamant Neymar will become world´s best|
|I´m just taking a sabbatical - Van Gaal denies he´s retired|
|Not even Gerrard won Premier League - Buttner says he´s not a United flop|
|Samper ignored Wenger as Barca midfielder rejected Arsenal|
|Pleased Pioli wants more from Inter|
|Evergrande boss Scolari dismisses Turan links|
|Klopp seeks legal advice over Matip|
|Marseille complete Sanson move|
|Inter 3 Bologna 2: Candreva prevents remarkable turnaround in Coppa Italia thriller|
|FA Cup Review: Non-league Lincoln stun Ipswich, Burnley and Palace through|
|Gabon v Burkina Faso: Aubameyang says hosts have learned from Guinea-Bissau setback|
|Mali 0 Egypt 0: El-Hadary makes history in stalemate|
|El-Hadary oldest AFCON player ever - 44-year-old Egypt goalkeeper makes history|
|Reus and Gotze on target but Bender injured in Dortmund win|
|Toure shunning lavish China interest to stay at City, says Seluk|
|Rahman´s AFCON in the balance, says Ghana boss Grant|
|Just 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets - How Vertonghen blow could impact Tottenham|
|Ghana 1 Uganda 0: Andre Ayew hands Black Stars nervy victory|
|Swansea snap up Carroll and Olsson in double swoop|
|All is forgiven? - Costa trains with full Chelsea squad after reported Conte bust-up|
|I would throw myself off a bridge for Luis Enrique - Rakitic dismisses Barca rift rumours|
|Was Juventus´ new logo inspired by tennis star?|
|Smooth sailing for Liverpool in Plymouth? Klopp expects tough test|
|Demichelis re-joins Malaga until end of season|
|Cameroon v Guinea-Bissau: Broos urges new heroes to emerge|
|Boxing champ hits Carragher with Chinese Super League comeback prank|
|Zidane backs Navas and defends Benzema as Madrid aim to bounce back|
|Deportivo bring in Kakuta from Hebei after CSL rule changes|
|Matip could miss eight games without doing anything wrong - Klopp|
|United trigger Valencia´s contract extension|
|Ronaldo returns to Real Madrid´s Copa squad|
|FA fine Sagna for Instagram post|
|Nedved does not foresee more January business for Juventus|
|Rafinha injury blow for Barcelona|
|Villas-Boas fumes at CSL foreign player crackdown|
|Ibrahimovic invaluable to Manchester United youngsters - Rashford|
|Robben rejected China move|
|A-League review: Phoenix rise to the occasion to end Victory´s streak|
|Van Gaal slams English media over treatment at Manchester United|
|Mignolet: Liverpool in better position to win title than in 2013-14|
|Giroud wants Premier League title but understands China temptations|
|Tianjin forced to scrap moves for Costa, Benzema, Cavani and Falcao|
|My goal was better than Mkhitaryan´s - Giroud|
|Pochettino not interested in Argentina job|
|Kane: Tottenham can win Premier League|
|Corinthians dreaming of Drogba - Paulo Roberto|
|Coutinho calls for Liverpool focus|
|Chiellini compares Pogba to LeBron and Bolt|
|Maradona to become Napoli ambassador|
|Mihajlovic furious after Torino collapse|
|Icardi has offers from China - Wanda Nara|
|Pogba can cope with pressure - Ibrahimovic|
|´My half-time words will stay in the dressing room´ - Montella annoyed with AC Milan|