HANGZHOU, China (AFP) - Legendary striker Birgit Prinz fired defending champions Germany into the World Cup quarter-finals here Monday, scoring one goal and playing a crucial role in their 2-0 victory over Japan.
Prinz, the triple world player of the year, struck in the 21st minute to shatter Japan's dreams of appearing in their first finals in 12 years.
Renate Lingor then nailed victory in the 87th minute by coolly converting a penalty, after teammate Martina Mueller was brought down inside the area.
The victory launches Germany, ranked two in the world, into the last eight after finishing top of Group A. Japan were edged out by England who thumped Argentina 6-1 in the other group game played Monday.
It also sends Prinz, playing in her fourth World Cup, into the history books by surpassing retired American footballer Michelle Akers as the most prolific scorer in World Cups, with 13 goals.
German coach Silvia Neid saluted her charges, saying they were strong in both attack and defensive with plenty of scoring shots.
"I'm very happy with the performance of our team, we reached the quarter finals, that's what we were aiming for," said Neid.
"We played well against a strong opponent, we created a lot of chances, nevertheless, in the quarter-final we have to add a little bit to our performance, because we will face a very tough opponent."
Germany must await the outcome of Tuesday's matches in Group B before knowing who they face next, with the United States, North Korea and Sweden fighting for two spots in the knockout stages.
With Prinz leading the charge, European champions Germany took command of the match in the opening minutes, cutting through Japan's defence like butter and bombarding the goal with shots.
Forward Petra Wimbersky should have scored in the third minute, latching onto a lightning quick pass inside the area, but goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto just tipped her thundering shot over the bar.
Kerstin Garefrekes fired off a missile two minutes later that went high, and came close near half-time when her shot was blocked by a charging and under pressure Fukumoto.
But it was Prinz who did the damage, lurking on the edge of the penalty box to meet Lingor's corner which she rifled into the net on her second touch.
Neid brought on 19-year-old sensation Fatmire Bajramaj to add penetration in the second half, but the Germans could not break down Japan's defence which became increasingly dogged. Fukumoto kept her cool and a string of fine saves earned her player of the match.
Even so, Germany came agonisingly close in the 73rd minute when Smisek cutback to Wimbersky who just launched her shot over the bar.
Lingor finally struck by firing her penalty shot into the right hand corner of the net past a diving Fukumoto.
Japanese coach Hiroshi Ohashi said he blamed himself for the loss.
"For 90 minutes we played very well," he said. "But we are disapppointed not to be going to the quarter-finals and as head coach of the Japanese national team, I feel responsible."
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