The USA defeated Germany 4-1 to boost their points tally to 10 and head the Group B standings ahead of defending champions Argentina. (Agencies)
Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England, clinched by a last-minute goal, also gives them 10 points, but the USA have a superior goal difference.
The USA, who won a bronze medal at the Dublin World Cup in 1994, had failed to qualify for the 12-team World Cup in 2010. In the London Olympics in 2012, they finished at the bottom of the 12-team table, but here they have not lost a match.
Three victories and a draw with Argentina has almost placed them in the final even before the last preliminary league fixture against South Africa.
Giving chase to USA and Argentina are China on seven points after winning a thriller against South Africa 4-3.
China play Argentina in their last league match, and a victory in that outing could put them at par with the defending champions, but their goal difference is far inferior to Argentina.
China needs an eight-goal victory in the last game to catch up with Argentina, who too appear to be on course for a shot at their title in four World Cups.
Kathleen Sharkey scored two goals for the USA, while Caroline Nicholas and Katie Reinprecht made one strike each to give them a four-goal lead before Germany got a consolation goal through Kristina Hillmann.
Carla Rebecchi scored the match-winner for Argentina through a penalty corner that was completed after the hooter went, leaving England shattered on losing their fourth successive match.
England had taken the initial lead in the seventh minute through a penalty corner goal by Alex Danson, while Argentina equalized in the 27th minute on a field goal by Delfina Merino.
China squandered a two goal lead as South Africa pressed the accelerator in the last 10 minutes, but Wang Mengyu converted a penalty corner two minutes from the hooter to secure a Chinese victory.
China surged to a two-goal halftime lead through Liang Meiyu and Wu Mengrong. Wang Na scored the third Chinese goal midway in the second session, but South Africa were also on target through Kelly Madsen, Bernadette Coston and Pietie Coetzee to draw parity at 3-3. Penalty corner shooter Coetzee is playing in her fifth World Cup.
The USA defeated Germany 4-1 to boost their points tally to 10 and head the Group B standings ahead of defending champions Argentina.