June 30, 2011

Germany 1, Nigeria 0

In what was one of the most unattractive matches in these proceedings, Germany edged Nigeria by a 1-0 margin. Germany clinched a quarterfinal berth, but now trail France in goal differential, so they will need to defeat France next Tuesday if they are to win their group.

The first half saw no scoring and few chances. Nigeria, while playing very competant soccer, apparently decided that one their primary tactics would be to intimidate the Germans. The Nigerians certainly held their own in the first half.

Germany nearly got on the board in the 3rd minue as Kim Kulig tried to take advantage of a mixup by the Nigerian defense. But while Kulig was able to get a touch on the ball, Precious Dede was there to make sure it didn't get as far as the goal.

Kulig again tried to get the Germans on the board in the 13th minute, but Dede made a diving save on the German midfielder's attempt from 30 yards out.

Nigeria appeared to have a three-on-two advantage in the 22nd second minute, but the German defense recovered and Sarah Michael's cross was grabbed by Nadine Angerer.

But for most of the first half, the most noticeable facet of the match was the Nigerians' consistently overly physical play, the referee consistently allowing it to go on, and the Germans consistently complaining about the lack of calls. Late in the half, there was some particularly nasty jostling before a set piece.

The first half ended scoreless, not surprisingly so. There were only seven shots on goal for the match, six for Germany and one for Nigeria.

The second half continued the same pattern, with the Nigerians being progressively more physical and Germans complaining progressively more about the lack of whistles.

Germany had the first good opportunity of the second half, but Babett Peter's header was blocked by the Nigerian defense.

In the 54th minute, Germany was award a free kick just outside the left side of the box. Okoyino da Mbabi struck the ball into the middle. The ball was loose on a scramble with Alexandra Popp getting first crack at it. Her shot was blocked, but Simone Laudehr's rebound found its way through the maze of bodies into the net and Germany had finally scored.

In the 64th minute, Inka Grings' shot was partially blocked and Kerstin Garefrekes' stretching effort lifted the ball over the crossbar from 12 yards out. Grings caused Dede problems in the 77th minute as her 15 yard shot had good pace and overspin. The ball was briefly bobbled by Dede, but she grabbed it before Popp was able to try for a rebound. In the 79th minute, Kulig's drive from distance went just over the crossbar.

As the match wore on, Germany seemed to try to match Nigeria in physicality department and began to get in a few shots of their own, although it must be said that they were quite a bit more subtle about it than their opponent. Then a late game collision, as Angerer jumped to punch the ball out and Desire Oparanozie made a brash attempt to crash in and head the ball, nearly led to more hostility.

There is no doubt that Germany was thrown off their game by what was going on. The strange thing is that, physical play aside, the Nigerians played pretty well for most of the match. One would not have thought going in that Germany would have won each of their games by only a single tally at this point.

Nigeria will now play Canada in a match that will be purely for pride. Germany will play France in a match that will decide the order of finish atop Group A. Germany must defeat France in order to win the group.