VALENCIENNES, France: Germany brushed off the absence of injured star player Dzsenifer Marozsan to beat Spain 1-0 on Wednesday and take control of Group B in the women’s World Cup, virtually assuring themselves of missing the rampant US in the last 16.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Sara Daebritz earned the Germans a hard-fought three points by pouncing three minutes before the break ahead of dithering Spain defender Marta Torrejon, who only had to clear the ball after her goalkeeper Sandra Panos did well to save Alexandra Popp’s header.
The win puts Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side three points clear of Spain and one better on goal difference after narrow victories in both their group matches and means they need a point against South Africa — who play China in Paris on Thursday — on Saturday to be completely sure of topping the group.
That would leave whoever finished second below them to face the Americans, who were in ominous form on Tuesday as they racked up a record 13-0 win over Thailand, while the Germans would take one of the four best third-placed finishers who will make the last 16.
Second-placed Spain, who were wasteful despite dominating possession and will rue Nahikari Garcia somehow slicing wide when clean through in the 14th minute, should still qualify but face a trickier test against the Chinese, who ran Germany close in their opening 1-0 defeat.
Earlier Nigeria coach Thomas Dennerby hailed forward Asizat Oshoala as “special” after her goal helped the Super Falcons to a 2-0 win over South Korea and took them close to qualifying for the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
Oshoala struck 15 minutes from the end with a super burst and finish to seal the win after a comical own goal from Kim Do-yeon, who somehow hooked a long ball back past onrushing goalkeeper Kim Min-jung, had put Nigeria ahead in the 29th minute.
“She’s very special because no-one has the speed she has,” the Swede said the lightning quick 24-year-old after a huge win, just their second in the World Cup since 1999.
“It’s important for the team because you can create a chance from nothing, even a clearance can be a goalscoring opportunity.”
The victory for Dennerby’s side left the unfortunate South Koreans pointless after their first two games in Group A and put Nigeria level with France and Norway on three ahead of their crunch clash in Nice later on Wednesday.
Nigeria can now legitimately hope for a place in the last 16 regardless of what happens in their last group match against the tournament-hosting French thanks to the best third-placed teams going through.
The three points they have could well be enough to see the Super Falcons through to the knockout rounds for the first time since 1999, when they reached the quarter-finals in the US.