— After coasting through the preliminary round of the Women's World Cup, forwards Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic provided a dominating reminder of why Germany is deserving of its top-rank billing.
Sasic scored twice, and Mittag added a goal and drew a penalty to set up another, in helping Germany advance to the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win to eliminate fifth-ranked Sweden in a round of 16 game Saturday.
"Benchmark? Yes. We measure ourselves against what we know we can achieve," German Coach Silvia Neid said through an interpreter. "It was a very important game, maybe it was a key match because we haven't had many games of this quality yet in this World Cup."
Germany's only first-round blemish was a 1-1 tie against Norway. Otherwise, the Germans routed the Ivory Coast and Thailand in scoring a tournament-best 15 goals.
Now the two-time World Cup champions will travel to Montreal, where they will face the winner of Sunday's match between third-ranked France and South Korea.
Disappointing as the finish was for Sweden, which ended the tournament without a victory, Coach Pia Sundhage acknowledged it was going to take a near-perfect effort to beat Germany.
"Germany is a very good team, and they deserve to advance," Sundhage said. "We fought and we tried, but it was not good enough."
Mittag opened the scoring in the 24th minute, and then Sasic scored the next two — including one on a penalty kick — in staking Germany to a 3-0 lead by the 78th minute.
The Swedes finally countered with Linda Sembrant scoring on a header off Therese Sjogran's free kick from outside the box in the 82nd minute. Sweden nearly cut the margin to 3-2 a minute later, when Sofia Jakobsson broke in alone. However, Jakobsson was stopped by goalie Nadine Angerer, who came out of the crease to cut the angle.
Dzsenifer Marozsan then sealed the win by scoring in the 88th minute.
Sweden had the misfortune of opening the tournament in the so-called Group of Death, alongside the United States, Australia and Nigeria. After three ties and a third-place finish, the Swedes then had to play in their third time zone in two weeks, and face Germany on three days' rest.
Aware of how tired the Swedes might be, Neid said the plan was to apply the pressure from the opening minute.
"We couldn't go into this match in a let's-wait-and-see-what-happens attitude," Neid said. "We wanted to deny them the feeling that it would be simple to play against Germany."
Alexandra Popp and Simone Laudehr both had scoring chances in the opening two minutes, before Mittag finally put Germany on the board.
Named the player of the match, Mittag forced a turnover at the left sideline of the Swedish zone. Playing give-and-go with Sasic, Mittag had a clear path to the net when she got a shot off from just outside the box and banked it in off the far right post.
"I think right now my self-confidence is pretty good," Mittag said.
Mittag also enjoys the chemistry she and Sasic have developed, with the two sharing the World Cup scoring lead with five goals each.
"I think we know how to play together. She likes to go deep. I like to be close to the back line," Mittag said. "I think it's just good for both of us."
Mittag played a role in Sasic's goal scored on a penalty kick in the 38th minute. Mittag had the ball inside the box, but was tripped up by Amanda Ilestedt as she was attempting to get off a shot. As Sasic approached the ball, Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl guessed wrong by diving to her right. Sasic easily turned her right foot to punch the ball into the unattended side.
Though replays showed Mittag might have fallen on her own, Sweden coach Sundhage refused to raise much of a fuss.
"There are a couple of calls you probably could argue," Sundhage said. "At the same time, if you want to win that kind of game when Germany plays that well, you need everything going your way. And it did not."
The Germans improved to 18-7 all time against Sweden. And they've won 12 of the last 14 meetings, since defeating Sweden, 2-1, in the 2003 World Cup championship game.