Germany will be disappointed with its performance despite a 2-1 victory over Canada in what was technically the opening match of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. France beat Nigeria 1-0 prior to Germany’s match, but the host nation’s opening game was considered the tournament opener.
Canada should have gone ahead in the 6th minute when captain and forward Christine Sinclair got in behind the German defense, but she skied the ball over the crossbar from 12 yards out.
Germany came out strong and struck early when Kerstin Garefrekes headed in a cross from Babett Peter in the 10th minute. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod was lost on the play and Garefrekes out-jumped left back Marie-Eve Nault.
But Canada responded well to the early goal for the hosts. The Canadians actually enjoyed the better of possession and looked confident on the ball. The midfielders linked up nicely and Diana Matheson served a few dangerous crosses into the box in what was a stellar first half for her.
And then it all fell apart.
Nault was again at fault when Germany doubled its advantage in the 42nd minute. She failed to push up with the rest of her back line and held German forward Celia Okoyino da Mbabi onside. Garefrekes played a ball over the top and Mbabi was in alone on McLeod, who failed to come off of her line in time and Mbabi finished to put a dagger into Canada’s hopes just before halftime.
Germany then came out and absolutely floored the Canadians for the first 35 minutes of the second half but failed to finish. Garefrekes inexplicably missed an open net from six yards out in the 67th minute and Germany continued to allow Canada to stay in the game.
Sinclair – who we later learned played through a broken nose after getting hit in the face earlier in the match – made Germany pay in the 82nd minute. After she was fouled, Sinclair stepped up and bent a free kick over the German wall from 20 yards out and into the upper corner to give Canada hope.
Germany held on, but showed a rare lack of finishing in the match. The Germans failed to run up the goal differential during a second half stretch when they should have, but that should be a non-issue in a group that Germany should win.
Canada showed two very different teams in the match. The Canada of the first half and the final 10 minutes of the game is the one that was expected to show up – a confident team with chemistry and swagger. The Canadians averaged a fancy heel flick every few minutes in the first half and looked to be clicking in the midfield.
But the second half was one of serious worry for Canada, which somehow managed not to concede in a half that it was dominated but did do so in a better first half. Concerns for Canada exist primarily in the back, where Nault was picked apart and Rhian Wilkinson struggled in the second half when she shifted to left back.
Now, Canada faces a must-win game against France on Thursday. Anything else will result in a disappointing group stage exit for the CONCACAF champions.
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