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Germany into final of Women’s World Cup

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TIANJIN, China — Defending champion Germany broke a shutout record in defeating Norway 3-0 Wednesday and claimed a spot in the final of the Women's World Cup.

Germany will play the winner of Thursday's United States-Brazil semifinal, with the final set for Sunday in Shanghai.

An own goal by Norway's Trine Ronning just before halftime set Germany on its way, and it dominated the second half, with goals by Kerstin Stegemann and Martina Mueller.

Germany has gone 529 minutes without conceding a World Cup goal, dating back to the 2003 tournament. That broke China's record, which was 442 minutes in the 1999 and 2003 events.

"It was tough in the beginning, but our defense did very well, we didn't allow any chances, particularly to (tournament top scorer) Ragnhild Gulbrandsen," Germany coach Silvia Neid said. "The players realized we were not giving chances and that helps them with self-confidence, then we scored at the right moment."

Germany's opening goal in the 42nd minute came after a tactical substitution allowed quick left-sided midfielder Fatmire Bajramaj to come on and make an immediate impact.

Bajramaj's through-ball found Birgit Prinz, who whipped in a cross from the left, and Ronning — attempting to block the ball with her chest — accidently diverted it into the net.

Norway pushed for the opening few minutes of the second half, but quickly ran out of energy and lost playmaker Solveig Gulbrandsen, who hobbled off in the 55th with a thigh injury.

Coach Bjarne Berntsen said Gulbrandsen took a knock on her knee and had to be substituted, but the player was at odds with that assessment after the match.

"He said that, but he must have seen something I didn't see, because I didn't get injured," Gulbrandsen said.

Berntsen said fatigue caused sloppiness in his team's play.

"Maybe we should have thought more about changing some players from the quarterfinal," Berntsen said. "It could be we made a mistake by playing the same team, but the main problem in the second half was we were so inaccurate with our passing — almost all Germany's attacks came when we gave the ball away."

Germany went up 2-0 in the 72nd minute. Off a quick break, Prinz played a ball inside to right back Stegemann. Her shot took a deflection, looped beyond the reach of Norway goalkeeper Bente Nordby, onto the inside of the left post and into the net.

It was 3-0 just three minutes later. A long ball by Stegemann pierced an uncertain Norway central defense, and Siri Nordby underhit a backpass, allowing substitute Mueller to steal in, take possession and shoot past the keeper.

Germany almost went 4-0 up in the 78th minute when Prinz, with yet another cutback from the right, found Bajramaj, whose firm shot rattled the crossbar.

Prinz, who was awarded player of the match honors for her forward play, said the team was nearing its best.

"We peaked at the right time," Prinz said. "We were stronger than our last two opponents, particularly in the second halves we were the better team. It seems we are fit at the right moment."

Norway will meet the loser of the U.S.-Brazil match in the third-place playoff, and coach Berntsen said the usually meaningless contest would be important for his team.

"We had a goal to fight for the medals and we don't have one yet, so we have to work very hard to get the team ready for Sunday."