MONTPELLIER, France -- Germany is playing like a title contender, just at the right time.
After seeing her team start the Women's World Cup with two one-goal victories, Germany Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told her players to keep the game simple.
Germany played to its status as the world's second-ranked side and one of the top challengers hoping to dethrone the United States, routing South Africa 4-0 on Monday to top Group B with a 3-0 record. The Germans will play a third-place team in the round of 16 instead of the possibility of an immediate matchup with the Americans.
After Germany grinded out 1-0 victories over China and Spain, its offense broke out with three goals in the first half at Montpellier's Stade de la Mosson, matching its total in its previous five World Cup games combined.
"I told my players that we should keep it simple," Voss-Tecklenburg said. "The players performed very well. They showed that football can really be very simple sometimes. ... There were moments within the match when we tried to go for the more difficult solution. That's something we can work on."
Displaying a varied attack, Germany generated a constant stream of scoring opportunities and could have easily won by a bigger margin.
Melanie Leupolz opened the scoring in the 14th minute with her first goal for Germany since the 2016 Olympics. Sara Däbritz doubled the lead in the 29th minute from a goal-keeping blunder, Alexandra Popp made it 3-0 in the 40th and Lina Magull added the final goal in the 58th.
"I think we are ready for the round of 16," Däbritz said. "Our goal was to come in first, and we are really happy about that."
South Africa was winless in group play and outscored 8-1. At 49th, South Africa had the lowest ranking of the 24 teams in the tournament.
Two-time tournament champion Germany has not lost a match in group play since falling to Sweden in 1995.
FRANCE 1, NIGERIA 0
RENNES, France -- France completed World Cup group play with a 3-0 record for the first time, beating Nigeria when Wendie Renard converted a penalty kick in the 79th minute after missing her first attempt but getting a second chance.
France will play a third-place team Sunday at Le Havre in the round of 16, and the winner will advance to a quarterfinal against the United States, Sweden or Spain.
Referee Melissa Borjas of Honduras awarded the penalty kick when Viviane Asseyi was knocked over by Ngozi Ebere, a call upheld in a video review and one that drew vehement protests from the Super Falcons. Eberle was given her second yellow card of the match for the foul, causing Nigeria to finish a player short.
Renard's initial attempt was wide to the right of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, but Borjas ordered the kick retaken because Nnadozie came off the line before the ball was kicked. Renard's second try went in to Nnadozie's right for her third goal of the tournament.
NORWAY 2, SOUTH KOREA 1
REIMS, France -- Norway knocked South Korea out of the Women's World Cup by scoring on two penalties.
Caroline Graham Hansen scored after five minutes and Isabell Herlovsen beat goalkeeper Kim Min-jung from the spot six minutes into the second half.
Yeo Min-ji converted in the 78th minute but couldn't spark a South Korean comeback.
South Korea went 3-0 in France with one goal while allowing eight. Norway advanced to the round of 16 as runners up in Group A, which was won by host nation France.
SPAIN 0, CHINA 0
LE HAVRE, France -- Spain and China played to a scoreless draw that advanced both squads to the round of 16 at the Women's World Cup.
Spain finished second at 1-1-1 in Group B behind Germany. La Roja advanced to the knockout stage for the first time and will face the winner of Group F on Monday at Reims -- likely the United States if the Americans win or draw in their final group match against Sweden.
China has advanced to the knockout stage at each of its seven World Cup appearances. It finished third in the group at 1-1-1.
Sports on 06/18/2019
Print Headline: Germany shows mettle, wins World Cup group