France South Africa Germany WWCup Soccer

Germany’s Lea Schueller, right, attempts a shot at goal in front of South Africa’s Janine Van Wyk during the Women’s World Cup Group B soccer match between South Africa and Germany at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, France, Monday.

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 a pair of one-goal wins, 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 wins 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.

Spain finished Group B as runner-up after a 0-0 draw with China and advanced to the knockout stage for the first time. Spain will face the winner of Group F on Monday at Reims, and the United States would be the opponent with a victory or draw in its final group match against Sweden.

Two-time tournament champion Germany has not lost a match in group play since falling to Sweden in 1995.

“Germany has won tournaments that it started out with difficulties,” Voss-Tecklenburg said. “It would be great to have the same this time. All the matches will be challenges, and I hope we will be able to meet them all.”

Germany didn’t miss the playmaking of Dzsenifer Marozsan, who broke a toe in its opener. Voss-Tecklenburg said she couldn’t guarantee the Lyon midfielder will be ready for the round of 16.

Leupolz put Germany ahead when she was left all alone on the edge of the 6-yard box to deftly nod a corner kick into the far corner of the net.

Däbritz made it 2-0 after a mistake by goalkeeper Andile Dlamini, who turned what appeared to be a poor German pass into a perfect assist.

Left back Verena Schweers’s cross looked like an easy grab for Dlamini, only for Dlamini to parry the ball right into the path of Däbritz, who got her second goal of the tournament.

“We conceded poorly from a set piece and a second goal, as well, and were on our back foot from there,” South Africa coach Desiree Ellis said.

Germany boosted the lead to 3-0 with pure power. Popp, the team captain, jumped over her marker to drive home a header.

Magull got the fourth goal when she rushed in to finish off a save by Dlamini, who did well to push a header by Marina Hegering off the post, only to see the ball bounce across the open goalmouth.

Only Dlamini’s sharp reflexes saved South Africa from a greater defeat.

“We always knew it would be a challenge,” Ellis said. “We are happy with the performance but not the result.”China 0, Spain 0

LE HAVRE, France — Spain and China played to a scoreless draw Monday that advanced both squads to the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup.

Spain finished second 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.

Defender Celia Jimenez said it doesn’t matter which team Spain will face because they are all good.

“The U.S. has a really powerful team, they play a direct game, they like to be dangerous, but at the same time I think Sweden is as well a really good team,” she said. “They also tend to play direct, so they kind of are similar teams. I think Spain is ready, I think we know what we play, our style of play, it’s good, and I don’t think it matters who we take on next.”

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.

Spain also finished 1-1-1.

La Roja’s best chance came in the 39th minute but Peng Shimeng stopped Jennifer Hermoso’s header off a cross from Virginia Torrecilla. China’s goalkeeper also fended off Alexia Putellas’ free kick in the 71st.

Peng got her fingertips on another shot from Hermoso in the 86th minute to deflect the ball over the net as Spain appeared to apply pressure in the waning minutes.

“We have opportunities, We still have hope. That’s why I’m so touched about our players’ effort and spirit,” China coach Jia Xiuquan said through a translator.

Two-time World Cup winner Germany, which defeated both Spain and China, finished atop Group B after a 4-0 victory over South Africa in Montpellier on Monday.

France 1, Nigeria 0

France completed World Cup group play with a 3-0 record for the first time, beating Nigeria 1-0 Monday night at Rennes 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 on 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.A crowd of 28,267 watched host nation Les Bleues outshoot Nigeria 22-2 and hold 69% possession. France advanced to the knockout stage for the third straight World Cup.

Nigeria finished third in Group A with three points and a minus-two goal difference, and the Super Falcons will have to wait to find out whether they can advance as one of the four top third-place teams. Nigeria has played in every Women’s World Cup but advanced past the group stage just once, reaching the quarterfinals in 1999.

Norway 2, South Korea 1

REIMS, France — Norway knocked South Korea out of the Women’s World Cup by scoring on two penalties in a 2-1 victory Monday.

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 0-3 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.

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