China tied Spain 0-0 to make the last 16 at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in Le Havre, France, June 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)
LE HAVRE, France, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Germany became the first team to seize a last 16 berth at the FIFA Women's World Cup after Monday's final group match, while Spain, China, Norway and hosts France also advanced.
Olympic champions Germany, who claimed narrow 1-0 wins from their opening two games against China and Spain, finally produced a convincing victory, routing South Africa 4-0 in Montpelier.
With goals from Melanie Leupolz, Sara Dabritz, Alexandra Popp and Lina Magull, Germany wrapped up their Group B campaign in style and progressed to the knockout stages with maximum points from the group stage.
Simultaneously in Le Havre, the China-Spain tie kicked off with both teams knowing a draw would be enough for them to advance, and the resulting goalless draw made both sides happy.
The scoreline, however, didn't reflect the pattern of the match, as Spain had over 63 percent possession, while Jia Xiuquan's team had only one attacking attempt against the Spaniards' 24.
Chinese women's soccer team coach Jia Xiuquan was in tears after China advanced to the knockout stage of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in Le Havre, France, June 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)
"It wasn't an easy draw, even without a single goal," said a tearful Jia, former coach of China's U-19 men's national team. "My players defended hard and their mental persistence moved me to tears."
"It's all about teamwork," echoed China defender and captain Wu Haiyan. "We came through all the ups and downs to take a valuable point from this game and we made it together."
With the goalless draw, Spain finish second behind Germany, with 1999 World Cup runners-up China in third.
Since the top two finishers from each of the six groups advance to the knockout stages alongside the four best third-placed teams, China's four points guaranteed them a spot in the last 16, as Cameroon and New Zealand from Group E and Group F's Chile and Thailand all took nothing from their previous matches.
"Of course we're happy to qualify for the round of 16. We're continuing to make history," said Spain coach Jorge Vilda, whose side improved from a 20th-place finish at the last World Cup to progress to the round of 16 finalists in only their second appearance.
"We knew a draw was a possibility," he added. "It would have been good to have scored, but I think today the Chinese goalkeeper was very good."
The Steel Roses' goalie Peng Shimeng, who was voted Player of the Match, gave a heroic performance in Stade Oceane, saving 15 Spanish shots with help from China's defensive line led by skipper Wu.
Later on Monday, hosts France and Nordic powerhouses Norway both saw victories in their respective fixtures, staying firm en route to the last 16 as the top two finishers in Group A.
In Rennes, a controversial penalty helped group leaders France win 1-0 over Nigeria, who had been reduced to 10 women for the last 15 minutes as left-back Ngozi Ebere was sent off for a second yellow card.
And in Reims, Norway sent South Korea packing after a hard fought 2-1 win through Graham and Herlovsen's well-converted penalties. Yeo Min-ji scored a consolation for the South Koreans.