Free-scoring Germans steamroll Swiss
Germany went into their final group fixture knowing they needed a win to be absolutely certain of qualifying for the quarter-finals, and they secured that victory in routine fashion, racking up a 6-0 scoreline against neighbours Switzerland.
Coach Maren Meinert made just one change to the side which thrashed Mexico 9-1 , introducing Carolin Schiewe after Janina Haye broke down with a knee problem shortly before kick-off. For the Swiss, coach Claudio Taddei brought in two new faces in the shape of Francesco Stillhard and Simone Zahno.
It didn't take long for the Germans to pick up where they had left off against Mexico, with Meinert's side opening the scoring with the match just four minutes old. Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi provided a textbook assist for Fatmire Bajramaj to drive just inside the near post from the inside-right channel (1-0, 4').
Buoyed by the early lead, the Germans dictated the pace, but the battling Swiss still carved out a handful of openings. Francesca Stillhard just failed to connect with an inch-perfect cross, and Vanessa Buerki posed a constant threat in front of the German goal.
With a stormy wind behind them in the first half at the Petrovsky stadium in St Petersburg, the Germans opted for long-ball tactics which next paid dividends midway through the half. Monique Kerschowski's mighty punt travelled practically the length of the field before finding Simone Laudehr out on the left. The striker pinned back her ears, headed for goal, and blasted an unstoppable shot past keeper Stenia Michel and just under the bar to double the advantage (2-0, 21').
For a time, Switzerland threatened a comeback and Ramona Bachmann twice burst through with only keeper Romina Holz to beat, but both she and the equally well-placed Buerki failed to net.
"At the end of the day, all that counts is the result, and that was 6-0," Taddei said afterwards. "You'll never win anything if you don't take your chances."
Meinert far from satisfied
The reigning world champions proved far more clinical, Nadine Kessler lofting a cross beyond the Swiss defence on the stroke of half-time for Okoyino Da Mbabi to slot home the third (3-0, 45').
"The result doesn't fairly reflect the course of the match," Germany coach Meinert later remarked. "I wasn't happy with the way we played as a team in the first half, but we took the lead because we had the better individuals. Our problems were nothing to do with defensive errors, but arose from our errors as a team. It's something we'll be working on."
Both Monique Kerschowski and Carolin Schiewe will be suspended for the quarter-final after collecting second yellow cards of the tournament before half-time, and Schiewe was replaced by Juliane Hofler for the second period. The pattern remained the same after the re-start, Germany dominating possession but Switzerland still creating chances, only to find Romina Holz in inspired form.
At the other end, referee Dianne Ferreira-James adjudged Caroline Abbe's 62nd-minute challenge on Nadine Kessler to be illegal and pointed to the spot. Fatmire Bajramaj stepped up and placed a confident shot into the corner for her second and Germany's fourth (4-0, 62').
Switzerland's cause was hardly helped when substitute Sandy Maendly managed just eight minutes on the field. She replaced Barbara Beutler on 75 minutes, was booked a minute later, and sent off after 83 minutes.
Kessler, Germany's best player on the afternoon, crowned a fine display with five minutes remaining, running on to Meike Weber's slide-rule diagonal pass to slot home the fifth (5-0, 85'). "I'm totally surprised and proud to be named Player of the Match, but the result wasn't a fair reflection of the play," Kessler observed. "I didn't think we'd win by that many. We had a little more luck then the Swiss."
Shortly before the final whistle, Anna Blasse took advantage of excellent build-up play from Simone Laudehr to bring up the half-dozen and round off the scoring (6-0, 89'). "I'm delighted we've made it to the quarter-finals, because you might not have expected it after our first match," a relieved Meinert admitted. "I honestly don't care whether it's the USA or France next."
Player of the Match: NADINE KESSLER
"An excellent player, possessing great vision and technique. She rarely loses possession, made decisive passes this afternoon, and added her name to the scoresheet. A very efficient display," Sylvie Beliveau (CAN), FIFA Technical Study Group .