Group B: GERMANY 1-0 CHINA
Germany made rather heavy weather of beating an unheralded China team in front of 15,283 in the Rennes sunshine. With virtually all the German’s most experienced players struggling to stamp their authority on the match and deal with China’s unexpected physicality, 19-year old Giulia Gwinn stepped up to provide the game’s decisive strike – volleying in from the edge of the box on 66 minutes. The Steel Roses may feel they deserved something from this game but were left to rue missing the best of the first half opportunities.
It would be a testy affair with both sides willing to put their feet into tough challenges. As early as the first minute, German striker Alexandra Popp was penalised for a high foot, but while the Germans reined in their discipline, China racked up several yellow cards that could be costly later in the group stages.
The early tone of the game seemed to fit the experts’ predictions. Germany camped in China’s half with a fluid five in midfield looking to engineer chances in and around the box. Sara Däbritz had the best of the early opportunities, firing wide from 20 yards.
German playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsán was receiving some very close attention and it wasn’t long before referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin lost patience and booked Wang Shanshan.
With Germany probing but without really threatening the goal, China then engineered the best chance of the game in the 14th minute. Centre back Doorsoun’s loose pass was picked off by the lively Gu Yasha and, following a neat interchange with Wang, Yang Li was played in one-on-one with Schult. Somehow Doorsoun recovered to get the merest nick on the shot and divert it wide.
This seemed to jolt Die Nationalelf into life and, moments later, Svenja Huth cut in from the left but dragged her shot wide. A minute later, Simon’s cross/shot hit the bar following a short corner routine. Popp then headed over after a neat move down the Germans’ left with the keeper clutching thin air, before Huth’s attempt to bundle in from close range was cleared off the goal line.
With a German goal seeming imminent, China Head Coach Jia Xiuquan had to shuffle his pack on 33 minutes when Lou Jiahui sustained an injury. Tan Ruyin joined the fray to try and shore up the Chinese defence.
Towards half time it was the tournament’s number two ranked side that suddenly started to get sloppy on the ball, with Doorsoun again culpable for a stray pass across the German backline. Gu Yasha was on to it greyhound like and played in Yang Li whose curling effort hit the post. Schult parried the headed rebound and then saved at the feet of Wang. Deep into four minutes of stoppage time the front three combined again, but this time Gu’s decision making let her down and she opted to cross when a shot was her best option. The players left the field at the break with Martina Voss-Tecklenburg looking easily the unhappier of the two coaches.
China felt there was something in this match for them and brought on Paris St. Germain star Wang Shuang at the start of the second half, but she was unable to make an impact as the German’s regained control of the match.
On 66 minutes Tan kicked the ball off the pitch under no pressure and, from the resulting corner, China failed to clear their lines and Gwinn’s measured first touch on the edge of the box set up the half volley which she rifled past Peng’s outstretched arms. The replay revealed that central defender Wu Haiyan had managed to jump over the ball.
Tails up, the Germans tried to put the result beyond doubt. The impressive Däbritz, now playing higher up the pitch, was thwarted by the keeper after good work by winger Huth. Gwinn, looking for a brace, sprinted into the penalty area but shot straight at Peng having latched on to a superb diagonal pass from Marozsán.
Before the end, China did forge one more half chance, but Zhang Rui blasted the ball well over the crossbar.
This was a low key a start by German standards and fans would have been expecting a more convincing performance. But they got the job done even with their stars subject to some very tough, physical challenges. Like their championship rivals, France, showed the previous evening, Germany are susceptible to the odd defensive error. Fortunately for them, on this occasion, China were not able to capitalise. What Voss Stekelenburg’s squad does have is quality in depth including some dynamic young players and it won’t surprise anybody to see this group improve as the tournament progresses.
Player of the match: Sara Däbritz, Germany (masterful in midfield).
Day 2 Round Up:
Group B: SPAIN 3-1 SOUTH AFRICA
Spain took control of Group B coming back from a goal down at half time to secure a 3-1 victory against 10-woman South Africa.
Thembi Kgatlana gave Banyana Banyana a sensational lead on 25 minutes cutting inside her marker from 20 yards and chipping over the despairing Sandra Paños. With the European side looking susceptible to the South African’s attacking pace, Kgatlana had two further opportunities in the second half to extend their lead but was unable to convert.
The Spaniards had enjoyed a lot of possession throughout but laboured in front of goal until South Africa’s captain, Janine Van Wyk, was adjudged to have handled in the box on 69 minutes. VAR confirmed that the ball had struck the defender’s elbow and Jennifer Hermoso stepped up to send Andile Dlamini the wrong way from 12 yards.
Pouring forward for a winner, Spanish midfielder Torrecilla’s looping header was chalked off when VAR ruled it out for offside. Spanish Head Coach Jorge Vilda then threw on winger Lucía García and, she made an instant impact, drawing a terrible challenge from Vilakazi in the box which resulted in a second penalty for Spain and a red card for the South African defender. Hermoso beat Dlamani this time to her left.
With time running down Lucía García got on the end of a superb Torrecilla through ball to round the keeper and make it 3-1, capping a dynamic cameo appearance.
Player of the match: Jennifer Hermoso, Spain (stepped up to the plate when it mattered)
Group A: NORWAY 3-0 NIGERIA
Norway demonstrated that life without Ada Hegerberg in the squad doesn’t have to mean goals are hard to come by, blowing Nigeria away in the opening 45 minutes with goals from Guro Reiten, Lisa-Marie Utland and an own goal from Nigerian central defender Osinachi Ohale.
The match started open with attacks moving end to end. But on 17 mins Nigeria switched off as Caroline Graham Hansen and Reiten worked a short corner from the right. Hansen hit the byline, laid the ball back to Reiten and she made not mistake from 8 yards.
The Grasshoppers made it 2-0 in the 34th minute. Ingrid Moe Wold won the ball on the right and found Reiten just outside the penalty area. She spotted Lisa-Marie Utland all alone in the penalty and the striker finished emphatically from close range.
Three minutes later and with Nigeria starting to look ragged, Norway got their third, again working the ball down the right wing. Graham Hansen found Isabell Herlovsen in the channel and, as Utland arrived to meet Herlovsen’s cross, Ohale turned the ball into her own net.
There was plenty of huff and puff from both sides in the second half, but only Nigeria’s Osisat Oshoala threatened to trouble the score line when she rounded Ingrid Hjelmseth in the Norway goal but couldn’t get her angles right to finish. The Super Falcons’ bad fortune was compounded when right back Faith Michael had to be stretchered off with an injury.
A good win for Norway knowing that France are up next for them. Nigeria must be hoping that they can get their campaign back on track against Korean Republic and their questionable defence.
Player of the match: Guro Reiten, Norway (led the attacking drive from midfield and took her goal well)