Though not quite as spectacular as they may have hoped, Germany were still a class of their own in Group A. The hosts and defending champions claimed their section at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ with maximum points, following up two less-than-convincing wins against Canada and Nigeria with an impressive victory over France in the section's top match.
Les Bleues showed smart technique and tactical awareness to progress to the quarter-finals in second spot. Pre-tournament hopefuls Canada disappointed throughout the first round and would go home without a point to their name, while Nigeria at least showed they have a bright future ahead by taking all three points in their final group game.
The next fixtures
Germany-Japan, Wolfsburg, 9 July, 20.45 CET *
*England-France, Leverkusen, 9 July, 18.00 CET
*A look back
*A phenomenal crowd of 73,680 provided the backdrop as host nation Germany kicked off their title charge with a 2-1 victory over Canada in the tournament's Opening Match in Berlin. For all that, Silvia Neid's team struggled for long periods after going 2-0 ahead, almost letting their lead slip at the death. Earlier France had beaten Nigeria 1-0 in Sinsheim.
Many were expecting the clash between Canada and France to decide the runners-up in the group – and so it transpired. The match turned out to be a one-sided affair, with the French playing some scintillating football in a comprehensive 4-0 win. Meanwhile Germany kept their bid for group supremacy on track with a hard-fought 1-0 success against the Nigerians.
Nigeria and Canada were both keen to bow out with at least three points and ultimately it was the Super Falcons who managed to do so with a 1-0 victory over their North American counterparts. Germany, meanwhile, faced France in a duel for first place and finally delivered the performance their fans had been waiting for in a 4-2 triumph. Inka Grings was the hero for the hosts, netting two goals in the absence of star striker Birgit Prinz, who found herself on the bench for the first time in 28 months.
When Perpetua Nkwocha netted the winning goal in the 73rd minute of Nigeria's 1-0 victory over Canada, fans at the Rudolf Harbig Stadion in Dresden witnessed a fitting conclusion to the career of one of women's football's greatest icons. The 35-year-old midfielder had already revealed that Germany 2011 would be her swansong on the international stage. For Nkwocha, the goal was especially sweet as it was her first in three FIFA Women's World Cups.
The turning point for Germany was arguably Simone Laudehr's goal in their second group game against Nigeria. Silvia Neid's star ensemble had struggled to live up to expectations prior to the midfielder's close-range finish, which seemed to provide a release for players and fans alike. The 24-year-old once again proved she was the woman for the big occasion, having previously fired Germany into the FIFA U-19 Women's World Cup seven years ago and into the Final of China 2007 with the opening goal in the semis four years ago.
The group in numbers
7 – The number of FIFA Women's World Cup appearances it took for Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer to concede her first goal at the tournament. After miraculously keeping a clean sheet throughout China 2007, the likeable shot-stopper was finally beaten by a sumptuous Christine Sinclair free-kick in the second half of her side's Opening Match against Canada. "I almost felt relieved," said the 32-year-old afterwards.
*"We're still in the running for second place. If we can win our quarter-final, and we want to win it, we'll be one of three teams still in contention for second place,"
*France coach Bruno Bini following his side's 4-2 defeat to hosts and reigning champions Germany.