July 5, 2011

Germany 4, France 2

Germany won the match, but not before a few anxious moments, defeating France 4-2 in their final group stage match. The Germans won Group A and will meet Japan in a quarterfinal match on Saturday. France finishes second in the group and will play England.

While Germany certainly had the better of play, the French kept coming back at every turn, making the Germans work the whole match to hold on.

Germany was in control for most of the match and they did so without Birgit Prinz, who sat through the match on the German bench. Silvia Neid made several other changes to her lineup, inserting Bianca Schmidt, Lena Goessling, Inka Grings, and Fatmire Bajramaj.

French coach Bruno Bini made changes as well. Wendie Renard was back in the lineup after missing the last match with an injury. Laure Boulleau and Elodie Thomis were also given starts, with Marie-Laure Delie and Camille Abily sitting on the sidelines at the start.

Most of the early part of the match was played from 18 to 18, with few chances. Bajramaj shot from 15 yards was blocked by the French defense in the 12th minute. Another Bajramaj effort was caught by Berangere Sapowicz in the 15th minute.

Germany started to take more control of the match and they finally broke through in the 25th minute. And it was Kerstin Garefrekes doing what she does best, using her head to score. Babett Peter took a free kick from 40 yards out and Garefrekes beat Renard, heading the ball cleanly into the upper left side of the net. Germany led 1-0.

France attempted to come back, but their chances were not particularly dangerous. A Sandrine Soubeyrand long-range effort from 35 yards went well over the net in the 28th minute. A free kick from Soubeyrand was punched safely wide by Nadine Angerer.

Germany made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute and once again it was a header. Simone Laudehr placed a beautiful cross from the left side to about 12 yards out, with Inka Grings cutting across the box. Grings headed it just past Sapowicz's outstretched hands and Germany appeared to be in control with a two goal halftime lead.

Marie-Laure Delie and Camille Abily came in for Thomas and Louisa Necib at the half, while Ariane Hingst was inserted for Simone Laudehr.

If Germany thought they were going to have an easy time of it in the second half, France had other ideas. The French seemed to come out with renewed determination in the 2nd half and they were the ones to strike first. Soubeyrand took a French corner kick in the 56th minute and Delie headed the ball in from the near post about eight yards out. All of a sudden, France had life.

Germany was awarded a questionable free kick just outside the box in the 59th minute, while Renard was given a yellow card for what appeared to be a clean tackle. Grings low shot was headed just inside the left post, but Sapowicz made a beautiful diving save.

In the 65th minute, Inka Grings controlled the ball on the right side of the box and pushed a nice, soft pass across to Bajramaj. As the German midfielder attempted to move in for the shot, Sapowicz took her legs out. A red card was given to Sapowicz and a penalty kick awarded to Germany. On this call, there was no question. Inka Grings hit a solid shot into the right side, with replacement keeper Celine Deville guessing the other way. It was 3-1 Germany and the game appeared to be over. Well, maybe not yet.

Just when German fans thought they could breathe easy, France struck again. Camille Abily's corner kick went just over the head of Wendie Renard, but Laura Georges was right behind her and unmarked. Georges perfect header once again cut the lead to one. The French were not giving up easily. Four goals on headers had been scored at that point as both sides were having trouble defending in the air.

Delie nearly tied the match a minute later, getting in on the left side of the box, but her shot went wide of the right post. France was playing a player down, but were still making things interesting.

Grings' free kick in the 76th minute slipped just wide of the right post and hit the side of the net. Hingst hit a cross from the right side a minute later, with Deville missing the ball. Bajramaj's bouncer was saved off the line by a sliding Abily to keep the margin at one.

Germany finally finished it off in the 89th minute. A cross came from Alexandra Popp to the head of Inka Grings who flicked a header to the right side of the box where a wide open Okoyino da Mbabi was waiting. She drilled a hard shot passed the feet of Deville and into the left side netting to finally clinch it for the Germans.

Germany wins Group A with an undefeated record. France comes in second, with this match being their only blemish. In addition to Sapowicz's red card, which will keep her out of France's match with England, several yellow cards were handed out which could affect both teams further into the tournament. Renard, Georges, and Elise Bussaglia all received yellow cards for France. Bajmaraj and Lena Goessling each received one for Germany.