Expected triumph for Germany, Spain comes with unexpected troubles

TORONTO — The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup has already started for two groups. While host-nation France thrashed South Korea in the tournament’s debut and Norway beat Nigeria after a strong first half to give the cards in Group A, Germany and Spain had expected triumphs against China and South Africa, respectively, to kick things off in Group B. 

Two-time champion Germany defeated China PR 1-0 led by Giulia Gwinn’s goal after 66’ played. The 19-year-old defender had a powerful strike from the edge of the box to score Germany’s lone goal of the day. The Germans now carry a 13-game winning streak, which includes 11 victories and eight clean sheets. 

The final box score of the game does not lie: the favourites were the better side for most of the match and deserved to win. Germany outshot China 18-4, including a 5-1 on-target shots advantage, and dominated the possession 62-38%.

The 15,283 fans who went to the Roazhon Park (Rennes) saw the Martina Voss-Tecklenburg-led squad organized on the field, with solid passes, and trying vertical connections. However, Germany had some unexpected flaws during the action, which will have to be fixed as the World Cup progresses. 

Especially in the first half, Germany’s defence struggled. There was a huge gap between the defensive backs and the defensive midfielders, which explains why China had a lot of room to work in transition.

Luckily for Voss-Tecklenburg, both Chinese opportunities in the first 45 minutes felt short. Firstly, Yang Li almost scored in an empty-net chance created after a defensive turnover. Later on, Yang Li had another chance between the Germans defenders but stopped in the post. 

Clearly, Germany’s defence wasn’t in the same sync as the offence, specifically in the first half. The good news for Germany is that Voss-Tecklenburg’s adjustments during half-time worked properly and things went back on track for the former champions after intermission.

Still, against tougher competition, Germany might not be in position to support such mistakes.

While Germany will try to improve its defence, the second-best team in the group Spain will have to get better offensively. Indeed, the Spanish allowed to much space in counter-attacks in the 3-1 victory over South Africa, but the biggest headache for manager Jorge Vilda is on offence as his team failed to create clear goal opportunities. 

The South Africans jumped up in the scoreboard first scoring their first ever World Cup goal in a beautiful touch by Thembi Kgatlana from outside the box in the 25’. South Africa would stand up in the scoreboard until the 69’, when a handball created a penalty-kick opportunity that was converted by Jennifer Hermoso. Hermoso also scored the go-ahed goal for Spain, again in a penalty kick. The insurance scorer for La Roja happened after the 89’ by Lucia Garcia dribbling the goalkeeper and completing the empty-net shot. 

Spain controlled the actions of the match since the first minute and was trying to impose the team’s short-pass style of play all the time. That explains why the European side had almost three times more passes completed in the game (594-203). In possession (72-28%) and shot attempts (25-4), too, the Spanish were the better side.

But this dominance wasn’t necessarily converted in real goal opportunities, as Spain had difficulty in creating and finishing its best chances. 

A lot of passes around the box and disconnected crosses by Spain explain why goalkeeper Andile Dlamini didn’t have any big save in the match and also why the Spanish needed two penalty kicks two accomplish a comeback triumph over the least talented opponent in the group.

Vilda just led Spain to the country’s first ever Women’s WC win. But to continue to make history, he will have to work on objectivity and calmness with his young squad, the third youngest in France 2019.

The chapter two for both Spain and Germany should be one of the best games of the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the two Europeans face each other in a matchup that should decide who will finish on the top of the table in this year’s “Group of death”.

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