Gwinn fires Germany past China in tight tussle

Rennes (France) (AFP) –


Defensive midfielder Giulia Gwinn scored the only goal on Saturday as Germany opened their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over China in Group B.

On a sunny but breezy early summer's day perfect for football, in front of a noisy crowd of 15,283 in Rennes, Germany, twice winners of this competition, dominated possession and territory.

Yet, in a game of slick passing mixed with robust challenges, their goal twice survived narrow escapes.

Germany, traditionally one of international football's dominant teams regardless of gender, started with menace.

In the first minute, Dzsenifer Marozsan lobbed a pass over the Chinese backline to Alexandra Popp, who drove the ball across the box. As Svenja Huth flexed her neck muscles and lined up a header, goalie Peng Shimeng flew out to deflect the ball with her clawing fingertips.

Within seconds, Sara Daebritz drove a low shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area. Later, Svenja Huth shot just over from a similar spot. It was the position from which Gwinn scored the second-half winner.

The Germans dominated first-half possession, creating a string of half openings only to be frustrated by dogged Chinese tackling and shot-blocking.

It was a game of neat passing triangles. Lyon star Marozsan, alternating between striker and playmaker, directed most German attacks, but her team were also willing to vary their approach.

The Germans did not enjoy a height advantage over the Chinese -- the aggressive and agile Peng was at 1.82 metres the tallest player on the field -- but they nevertheless emulated France the night before and used the high ball as an attacking tactic.

Popp twice headed narrowly over in the first half, the second time getting flattened by Peng.

Yet China's passing carved the two clearest chances of the half.

First, Wang Shanshan sent Gu Yasha racing into the area. Gu faked a shot, luring Almuth Schult into a dive but allowing two defenders to close. As the door shut, Gu slid the ball wide to Yang Li who briefly had an open goal but took an extra touch and the Germans slid in again, deflecting the shot wide.

Just before half time, Zhang Rui sent Wang through the middle. She found an unmarked Yang, who this time beat Schult, but hit the inside of the post. In the melee that followed, Schult saved twice at the feet of on-rushing Chinese forwards.

The Germans created the first danger of the second half as Peng palmed Popp's swinging ball round the past.

The Germans took the lead after 66 minutes. The Chinese cleared a corner to the top of the penalty area where Freiburg's Gwinn had time to take a touch before smacking a shot that curled between the on-rushing Yang's legs and into the corner of Peng's net.

China, World Cup finalists in 1999, generated sporadic pressure but Germany, now able to play on the counter attack , created the better chances only to shoot repeatedly straight at Peng.