Germany and Norway hope to take the next step towards winning a second FIFA Women's World Cup in this weekend's quarter-finals in China - while England face a tough task if they are to remain in the running for a first triumph.
Holders Germany scored 13 goals without reply in winning Group A and kick off the last eight on Saturday in Wuhan against a formidable side from North Korea, who pipped 2003 runners-up Sweden to this stage on goal difference. "The quarter-finals will be tough and we have to improve when facing tougher teams," said Germany coach Silvia Neid.
England face US
Later on England - who held Germany in the group stage and went through unbeaten - will hope to improve on their only previous qualification when they reached the 1995 quarter-finals. It will not be easy against sole two-time winners the United States in Tianjin but England forward Eniola Aluko told theFA.com: "The spirit in the team is fantastic, you can taste the confidence."
Norway meet hosts
Norway, victors in 1995, topped Group C on Thursday with a 7-2 defeat of Ghana and on Sunday will be in Wuhan to take on hosts China, who knocked out Denmark and are led by Sweden's former coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors. Ragnhild Gulbrandsen struck a hat-trick yesterday to take her finals goal tally to five and go top of the scorers' table, and told fifa.com: "It's unbelievable. If you had said to me not so long ago that I would be ahead of Marta and [Birgit] Prinz as top scorer of a World Cup, I wouldn't have believed you. Especially as this team isn't known for scoring a lot of goals." The winners of their game meet Germany or North Korea on Wednesday.
Brazil face Australia in the fourth quarter-final later on Sunday in Tianjin, with the victors to face England or the US on Thursday. Meanwhile, Sweden and Denmark can seek consolation despite their returns home as they have earned a two-legged play-off for Europe's remaining place in the 2008 Olympic women's football tournament. Germany and 2000 gold-medallists Norway have now qualified but England cannot take the third UEFA berth as they are ineligible.
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