THE DAY REPLAYED - Germany could not quite manage as many goals in their second game at the FIFA Women's World Cup as in the first. In fact, they could not manage any at all.
That will come as huge relief to the other 15 nations who wondered what sort of Superwoman ensemble coach Silvia Neid had brought to the China 2007 party after watching in shock and awe as the defending champions scored 11 goals in the tournament's Opening Match. It is always competitive when Germany face England on the world stage and this was no different as the players slugged themselves to a standstill and a 0-0 scoreline in Shanghai's Hongkou stadium.
Argentina, the side who Germany used for target practice on Monday, lost again and became the first to book their departure from the Far East. Japan's late winning goal ensured that they joined Germany at the top of Group A on four points, while in Group B USA and Korea DPR are comfortable with four points apiece after both enjoyed 2-0 victories over Sweden and Nigeria respectively.
Germany do not often leave the field with the scoreboard showing zero beside their name. In the FIFA Women's World Cup it had not happened in 11 games - not since the 1995 final in Solna when Norway beat them 2-0 to lift the trophy. The figure 11 was relevant in another respect because that was the number of heroes on the England side, who fought to the bitter end to prove that this German team are human after all.
It was a hard task to pick the Player of the Match, though midfielder Katie Chapman and captain Faye White set towering examples of commitment and focus to steer England to a notable result, their second 0-0 in succession after Germany had won all the previous 16 meetings. Add to that a crucial save by goalkeeper Rachel Brown with eight minutes remaining and you had a very frustrated Germany team by the end - summed up when the normally peerless Birgit Prinz snatched at a chance on 89 minutes and sent it wide.
Germany have overtaken USA as favourites for this event and again the two-time world champions were not wholly convincing in their meeting with Sweden. Yet while Abby Wambach remains fit and well they are capable of beating anyone. The 27-year-old, who combines indomitable strength and power with courage - she played on after receiving five stitches in a head wound on Tuesday - scored both goals in a standout individual performance.
Wambach has plenty of imagination in her locker as well, perfecting a penalty routine in which she approaches the spot intent on using one foot before changing tack and stroking it home with the other. The novel approach certainly bamboozled goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and the US, without ever hitting the high notes, had a half-time lead.
Her second goal employed genuine class, a clever pass from
Kristine Lilly, an instant chest control from Wambach and a
fearsome strike on the half-volley with her left foot bringing a
78th goal in 96 internationals in spectacular style and sealing a
fourth USA win over Sweden in as many matches in FIFA competitions.
In the evening Chengdu fixture the game was virtually over after 21 minutes when Korea captain Ri Kum-Suk scored with a header following a corner. It came four minutes after the opener which also arrived via a corner, Kim Kyong-Hwa looping it up and over Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede from the quadrant.
Argentina made four changes to the team that had started on the wrong foot against the Germans, and kept the unfortunate Vanina Correa out of the firing line with Romina Ferrero taking over between the posts. Having survived a scare when Eva Gonzalez turned a low cross against her own post in the third minute it began to look as if the South Americans would claim their first point at a FIFA Women's World Cup. Their hopes rose when Fabiana Vallejos struck the woodwork in the 73rd minute but ended when Japan, who equalised against England in the fifth minute of injury time on Tuesday, scored with Nagasato pouncing after Ferrero had parried a low drive.