Hosts and defending champions Germany got their women’s World Cup campaign off to a flying start on Sunday when they beat Group A rivals Canada 2-1 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
Having won both the 2003 and 2007 editions, Germany are bidding to complete a hat-trick of titles on home soil and they had few problems against Canada, who threatened the goal only on rare occasions.
First-half goals by Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino da Mbabi put the hosts in control, before Canada captain Christine Sinclair, who broke her nose in the first half, slotted home a late free-kick for the guests.
“It was the first game, so we were a bit nervous. There is room for improvement and we will improve,” said goal-scorer Garefrekes, who also supplied the pass for the second goal.
The win puts Germany top of Group A.
“We got two goals in the first half and didn’t play so well, then in the second half we were much better organized, but we couldn’t score,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said. “Things got tight at the end and it could have been 2-2, so I am very happy we won the first game.”
The hosts squandered a string of second-half chances, while Canada grew in confidence as the game wore on.
“The first game in a World Cup tournament is always tough and maybe were a bit intimidated at the start, but I think we did well,” said Canada coach Carolina Morace, who paid tribute to her plucky captain Sinclair. “Christine is a fantastic player and she took her chance well. The doctors have told me the nose was broken, but she insisted on playing on. She knows what she can do and it would have been hard to take her off with her experience.”
With Germany having gone through the entire 2007 campaign without conceding a goal, Sinclair became the first player to score against them at a World Cup since Sweden’s Hanna Ljungberg in Germany’s 2-1 win in the 2003 final.
After a glitzy opening ceremony when a giant mirror ball released hundreds of ball-shaped balloons into the Berlin sky, Germany got their campaign off to a good start with the first goal coming after just 10 minutes.
Having been denied from a crisp shot just moments before, right winger Garefrekes headed home a cross from fullback Babett Peter to put the hosts ahead in front of a sell-out crowd of 73,680.
Germany then punished some sloppy defending as center forward Okoyino da Mbabi made it 2-0 just before the break. A towering long ball from Garefrekes put Okoyino da Mbabi — who turned 23 yesterday — away and with the Canada defense nowhere near her, she slotted her shot past goalkeeper Erin McLeod on 42 minutes.
It was the Germany midfielder’s fourth goal in her last five games.
Canada’s Italian coach Morace made two changes at halftime, while Germany’s Neid opted to switch captain Birgit Prinz for 20-year-old Alexandra Popp, while Okoyino da Mbabi made way for the experienced Inka Grings.
Both Popp and midfielder Kim Kulig clipped the crossbar with second-half shots as the hosts failed to add to their tally, before Sinclair curled in a late free-kick to pull one back.
The last time Germany lost was in March last year when the US beat them 3-2 in the Algarve Cup.
Two-time women’s World Cup winners the US open their Group C campaign against North Korea in Dresden today.