Hosts off to winning start

Goals from Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi gave Germany a 2-1 win over Canada in Group A of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in front of 73,680 football fans at Berlin’s Olympiastadion.

After a glittering opening ceremony and backed by the vast majority of the capacity crowd, Germany had the better of the initial exchanges, but it was Carolina Morace’s side who had the first real chance. Receiving the ball inside the box, the experienced Christine Sinclair blazed over when many, including the striker, expected the game’s opening goal.

At the other end, Erin McLeod pulled off a fine one-handed save to deny Garefrekes after she was supplied by the influential Melanie Behringer. However, the Canadian custodian was powerless to stop the hosts from scoring in the tenth minute.

Babett Peter put in a dangerous cross into the box from the left hand side, Garefrekes outjumped Marie-Eve Naultat at the far post and headed the ball into the gaping goal.

Canada were reduced to trying their luck from distance, but went close when a rasping drive from Diana Matheson flew narrowly wide.

From then on Sylvia Neid’s side controlled the first half, and indeed the game. Their second goal came just before half-time when Garefrekes hopeful punt into space was claimed by the pace of Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi. The midfielder, who turns 23 tomorrow, brought the ball down left thigh before rolling it past McLeod with her right foot.

The introduction of Alexandra Popp in the 56th minute led to several chances for the hosts. The Duisburg forward clipped the top of the bar with a shot from the edge of the box and then turned provider, finding the unmarked Garefrekes who contrived to fire over from 12 yards with the goal at her mercy.

Simone Laudehr’s shot from distance cannoned off the crossbar as the game entered into its closing stages, but there was still time for a nervous finish when Sinclair curled a free-kick over the German wall and into the back of the net with eight minutes remaining.

It was the first goal conceded by Germany in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match in 679 minutes of football dating back to 2003. While many other teams may have crumbled under the pressure, Germany did not and closed the game out expertly to take them to the top of the early standings.

Player of the match: Kerstin Garefrekes