THE DAY REPLAYED - An ageing team. One that has seen better days. These were two of the labels pinned to the jerseys of the reigning world champions on the approach roads to the fifth FIFA Women's World Cup. How wildly off-target those descriptions appear now in the light of Germany's huge, record-breaking victory in the Opening Match of China 2007.
If this team are feeling their years, ruefully reflecting on the advance of father time, then their performance will give solace to all those no-longer-so-young performers in football, in any sporting field, indeed in life itself. This was a devastating demolition of Argentina's optimism, hopes and defences as Silvia Neid's team scored 11 goals without reply; a warning writ in the boldest type that the holders will not relinquish their crown lightly.
After the fireworks in a colourful and vibrant opening ceremony at the Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium this was explosive stuff. By the end of an amazing 90 minutes there was desperate fatigue in the legs of the deflated Argentinians and also in the hands of those occupying the German bench who greeted each billowing of the net with exuberant high fives.
To sum up the records which capsized on a spectacular Shanghai evening: it was the most decisive FIFA Women's World Cup victory (and heaviest defeat); two players scored hat-tricks which had only happened once before, and the peerless Birgit Prinz moved alongside USA's Michelle Akers at the head of the list of top goalscorers at the event with 12.
Beforehand Carlos Borrello's young and inexperienced side had spoken of their pleasure in facing Germany in the first game. Memories were still raw from the 6-1 beating they received against these opponents at USA 2003. Talk of revenge was in the air. But long before the end the South American champions would have settled for a five-goal defeat as shot after shot found its way into Vanina Correa's net.
The goal-fest was started when a Melanie Behringer corner from the left somehow managed to deceive the Argentina goalkeeper. That was in only the 12th minute, and by half-time the score was 5-0, which came close to Sweden's 6-0 first-half record score.
Credit Argentina's spirit
Yet it was the underdogs who had registered the first attempt on goal, Clarisa Huber chancing her luck from distance. Credit her team-mates for keeping their spirits as high as it was possible to be in the face of such a drubbing. Certainly they had the support of most of the neutrals watching the action unfold, the Chinese supporters responding noisily every time the dark blue shirts launched an attack.
It was the 29th minute before Prinz registered her name on the scoreboard for the first time with a powerful header. By the interval she had made it two and her hat-trick arrived just before the hour. Germany's record goalscorer and a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner has lost none of her celebrated powers.
Hers was just one of many compelling individual performances with Sandra Smisek rubbing shoulders with her own trio of goals, scored in the space of 22 second-half minutes. One of the most eye-catching goals came on 23 minutes when Behringer surged a long way forward before tucking the ball home from a difficult angle. Kerstin Garefrekes was always involved and scored spectacularly, to make it 2-0 following Kerstin Stegemann's long free-kick. Renate Lingor offered her characteristic class and commitment throughout and scored with a delightful half-volley before profiting from another goalkeeping error at the death.
All this and two disallowed goals and a header against an upright. Those totting up all the statistics and match facts inside the stadium were certainly in need of some rest and relaxation afterwards. There will be tougher tests for the defending champions but this was an awesome template for the likes of USA, Sweden and the host nation to try and follow.