Their reknowned second-half strength told for Germany again in the UEFA Women's Championship as they claimed a place in Saturday's final and the chance to lift their third successive crown by defeating old rivals Norway 1-0 thanks to Sandra Smisek's 57th-minute header.
Despite a spirited showing from the Olympic champions, the host nation deserved their win at the Donaustadion, Ulm, and were unlucky to twice see the ball come back off the woodwork. The large 13,524 crowd were also happy to take revenge for the semi-final victory Norway had gained against the German team on their way to winning gold in the Sydney games.
Tricky team selection
Head coach Tina Theune, who alluded to the difficulties she had in picking a team from the talented German squad by saying the line-up "would be a miracle", opted to leave out Claudia Müller who had scored Germany's first two goals of the tournament in the opening-day win over Sweden. Pia Wunderlich kept her place down the right and Maren Meinert and Kerstin Stegemann returned after they were rested for the England game.
Three changes for Norway
Norway's dismay at their last two performances, which had yielded just a single point, was reflected in three changes. Gøril Kringen returned after suspension, Unni Lehn started for the first time in this competition and Linda Ormen regained her place from Anita Rapp.
It was intolerably warm in the Ulm stadium beside the Danube and Norway, shrugging off their recent torpor, pushed Germany back, using their two wingers to try to stretch the famed defence of the host nation. Hege Riise, still to find her best form, looked to dominate the midfield from the first whistle, even though in Meinert and Renate Lingor she was up against formidable foes.
An early chance arose for Dagny Mellgren but Silke Rottenberg was off her line quickly to make a fine saving tackle. That was immediately followed by a chance for Germany as Sandra Smisek hared through a gap, only to jab her effort wide as she stretched with the keeper advancing.
Lingor hits the post
The game was slow to catch fire but that would not worry Germany, whose best work had come in the second period of every game so far. On the half-hour Lingor's free-kick sailed over all the heads and bounced up to strike an upright with Bente Nordby beaten. Birgit Prinz took over, first finishing a strong run with an over-hit pass, then forcing Nordby to go down low to prevent the opener.
Thwarted by the crossbar
Germany had ended the half on top, but you could only admire the way Norway were resisting in defence and also their ability to strike out and create a chance for themselves. They were unlucky when Solveig Gulbrandsen gave Mellgren the room to aim her cross towards the far post where Ormen was waiting. She climbed above Stegemann to get in a strong header, only to be thwarted by the crossbar.
Meinert responded with a fierce volley that Nordby did well to keep out. However, two minutes later an incisive move put Germany in front. The diagonal ball from Lingor was near-perfect and the first-time cross from Prinz impeccable as Smisek lurked on the five-metre line. Her composure showed as she aimed her header into the top of the goal.
After that Norway found it hard in the strength-sapping conditions though Stefanie Jones twice had to be at her most vigilant to prevent a serious threat to their lead. Another great run from Prinz in the 76th minute nearly ended in glory but the right-hand post intervened. In the dying minutes substitute Claudia Müller saw a shot well saved and then put another opportunity wide.
Player of the match: Bettina Wiegmann (Germany)
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