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Gwinn fires Germany past China in tight tussle

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Rennes (France) (AFP)

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

On a day for German youth, Gwinn, who is just 19, scored, and Lena Oberdorf came on at half time to become her country's youngest World Cup player at 17 years and 171 days.

The Germans complained after the game that the Chinese had aimed for their ankles.

"They were often late in the tackles and kept catching our feet," said German captain Alexandra Popp. "We had to really grit our teeth."

Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said she had not been sure at one stage if star Dzsenifer Marozsan would finish the match.

"A lot of our players were caught on the ankle today, and it doesn't look good for some of them. What Dzseni Marozsan suffered today was brutal."

"Her ankle doesn't look great."

"We were a little surprised by the assertive approach of the Chinese, but it's a competitive game, not a friendly, " she said.

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 Li's legs and into the corner of goalkeeper Peng Shimeng's net.

"I am very happy to have scored a goal at the World Cup," said Gwinn, who also struck the opening goal when Germany beat China in the group stage of the under-20 World Cup down the road in Saint-Malo last August.

"The most important thing is that we have started with three points."

Voss-Tecklenburg brought on Oberdorf at half time for her "presence in the midfield".

With China pressing late in the game, Oberdorf earned a yellow card for a tackle that took both Wang Shuang's legs.

Germany finished with one yellow card to four for the Chinese.

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 started well but were thwarted by dogged and organised Chinese defence.

Germany showed a willingness to shoot from range and also hit high balls into the goalmouth.

"We wanted to create space and width and pressure the Chinese through set pieces," said Voss-Tecklenburg.

Yet the agile and aggressive Peng, at 1.82 metres the tallest player on the field, was equal to everything the Germans threw at her goal until Gwinn swerved a shot through a forest of legs.

- Clearest chances -

However it was China's passing that carved the two clearest chances of the first 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 with Sara Doorsoun rushing at her, 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.

"There was a lot of pressure on our defence, but in our attack we created opportunities," said Jia Xiuquan, China's coach.

"Compared to Germany we are not at the same level, but it does not mean we cannot fight."

After Gwinn's goal, 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.

The Germans finished the match with 18 goal attempts to four by China

"We deserved to win today," said Popp." We have arrived in the tournament now."

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