Germany and France each put one foot in the Round of 16 after exciting, hard-fought victories over Spain and Norway respectively. Sara Dabritz was the Germans’ match-winner, while Eugenie Le Sommer’s clinically dispatched penalty maintained the hosts’ unblemished start.
Nigeria, meanwhile, hauled themselves back into contention with a 2-0 win over Korea Republic. The Taegeuk Nangja are not officially eliminated but this latest loss leaves them needing a convincing and seemingly unlikely win over Norway to keep their hopes alive.
This was a deserved win for the Super Falcons. They did everything asked of them: kept their concentration in defence, worked hard in midfield and finished off their chances in attack. Key points and key goals have given them a chance to advance from the group stage for the first time since 1999.
Despite producing their best performance of the tournament so far, Korea Republic failed again to get the result they wanted. It was all the more disheartening for the Taegeuk Nangja as they dominated possession throughout, only to fall victim to two quick counter-attacks.
In their first game without the injured Dzsenifer Marozsan, we saw a more reactive German side. It was a team that looked for goals in transitional play and scored the match-winning goal from such a situation. I don’t think we will see that same approach against perceived underdogs South Africa in the last Group B match, but without their playmaker, Germany might well resort to this style in the latter stages, utilising some of their young, pacey players.
Spain needed a perfect performance to beat or draw against Germany, and they produced one – almost. They fell just short of perfection because, despite being more direct and aggressive in attack, and bettering their performance against South Africa, they just couldn’t convert their chances. That lack of accuracy cost them and is something they’ll need to address ahead of facing China PR.
Les Bleues suffered on two different levels: physically, because the Norwegians were very strong athletically – much more so than opening-match opponents Korea Republic. But this was also a mental test, because they had to dig deep after conceding a horrible own goal by Wendie Renard. Fortunately, they reacted superbly and were rewarded for their attacking efforts with the penalty that allowed Le Sommer to emerge as the saviour once again.
Norway came into the lion’s den tonight and gave France a serious fight. The happiest coaches watching this will be the ones that France might face over the remainder of of the tournament. The Norwegians, after all, offered a template for how to shackle the awesome attacking power of the host nation, and on another night, might have come away with a point.
Nigeria and South Korea will be the first teams to play their second games at the 2019 Women’s World Cup when they meet on Wednesday in Group A play. Both national teams are looking for their first points in the cup after losing their openers. South Korea fell 4-0 to host France last Friday, while Nigeria lost 3-0 to Norway on Saturday. Aside from looking for their first points, they are also looking for their first goals and are going to need them here as a draw will do very little for either.