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Culture

Germany Stuns U.S., Heads to Women's World Cup Final

Germany faces Sweden in the women's World Cup final after beating the favored U.S. squad 3-0 on Sunday. With at least a second place spot guaranteed, the German women have established themselves on the global stage.

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It's celebration time following the final whistle in their semifinal match with the U.S.

With a stunning 3-0 victory over World Cup champs the United States, Germany swept into the women's World Cup soccer final and ensured at least the same title that their male counterparts achieved last year.

The German team's victory before a sell-out crowd in Portland, Oregon marked their first foray into the World Cup final since 1995, when they lost to Norway 2-0. The men's national team finished second in the last World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002 after losing to Brazil 2-0 in the final.

The win against the favored United States, defending World Cup champions from 1999, means Germany will face Sweden - who beat Canada 2-1 - in the other semi-final

"I'm happy that we're considered the favorites after this success," said German coach Tina Theune-Meyer, looking ahead to a game that will be a rematch of the European Championship two years ago. "We have a lot of self-confidence and we'll have a good chance against Sweden."

German keeper dominates

Germany's fluid passing game combined with hard-knuckled goalkeeping by player of the game Silke Rottenberg proved too much for the Americans. After an unconvincing start from both teams, the Germans struck in the 15th minute when 6-foot Kerstin Garefrekes rose up above U.S. captain Julie Foudy and headed a corner kick past goalkeeper Briana Scurry.

Though the Americans seemed to wake up after the goal, charging again and again for the rest of the half, they were frustrated by Rottenberg's stops and timing in coming out of the goalie box. When U.S. star Mia Hamm broke ahead of two defenders following a perfect pass in the 34th minute, Rottenberg charged out to meet her, disrupting Hamm and sending her to the turf.

"She was overwhelming and kept us from equalizing," U.S. coach April Heinrichs said of the German goalkeeper.

The second half saw more aggressiveness from the U.S. team, but without results. The Germans added two goals by Maren Meinert and Birgit Prinz in extra time following the 90th minute. Prinz's goal was her seventh of the Cup and ensured her the scorer's title.

"I think our whole team was very disciplined," Theune-Meyer, the German coach, said. "We played without fault."

A powerhouse is born

That discipline collapsed only after the final whistle blew and the German team ran into each other's arms on the field.

"I can't believe it, I'm floating on cloud nine," said Meinert.

Following five European championships, Germany established itself as a global powerhouse in this World Cup, which was moved from China to the United States this summer after the SARS virus scare. Theune-Meyer's team stormed through the top of their group with the maximum points and then dispatched Russia in the quarterfinal 7-1.

Though still second-tier to men's soccer in Germany, the number of women picking up the sport has increased and now numbers more than 841,000, according to Germany's soccer body, the DFB. The national team's success can be attributed to an active women's league as well as the blooming of German players in the highly-competitive WUSA.But the WUSA disbanded shortly before the World Cup started last week, and organizers hoping a U.S. victory would encourage sponsors to bring the league back together were left disappointed. The disappointment won't match that of Hamm, Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, household names in American soccer who left the field in tears after playing their last World Cup.

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