China were left to rue missed chances against Germany in their opening World Cup match, as they succumbed to a one-nil defeat at the hands of the two-time champions.
The women in red started the match with a line-up that featured only two changes from the side that had faced France a week earlier in their final warm-up game. Wang Ying who had struggled against France was replaced at right-back by Han Peng and Zhang Rui started ahead of Tan Ruyin in central midfield. Jia Xiuquan still appeared to be concerned about Wang Shuang’s ability to handle a full ninety minutes and once again decided to start her on the bench.
Germany had the better of the opening stages of the match but China came close to scoring fourteen minutes in, when they broke quickly after intercepting a weak pass from Sara Doorsoun-Khajeh. Yang Li was unable to provide the finishing touch however with her shot being deflected wide. Germany responded quickly, and they soon had a corner which they played short to Carolin Simon who was able to put in a floated cross which ended up hitting the crossbar.
As the half wore on Dzsenifer Marozsán was able to pull the strings in the German midfield and put increased pressure on the Chinese defence. China were up to the task though, as some robust defending helped to blunt the German attack for the duration of the first-half. China consistently looked a threat on the break and should have gone in ahead at half-time. A quick brake on forty-four minutes saw Yang Li through on goal but she hit the post and was then was unable to convert during the ensuing goalmouth scramble. In injury time China had yet another chance to take the lead when Gu Yasha found herself in on goal, but she held onto the ball for too long before squandering the chance with a mistimed pass.
China brought Wang Shuang on at half time but she struggled to make an impact in what proved to be a difficult second-half for China. China stuck with their combative style of defending which had proved so effective in the first-half. This continued to frustrate Germany until well past the hour mark, but the deadlock was broken on the sixty-sixth minute when Giulia Gwinn smashed home a screamer from the edge of the box to give Germany the lead.
Germany looked a lot more assured once ahead and proceeded to ruthlessly close the game out. They left China with few opportunities to try and find an equaliser, while patiently probing for a second goal. In the end, one goal was enough for the Germans, who must be extremely relieved to have come through an extremely testing encounter with three points.
China will undoubtedly be hugely disappointed to have a come out of this game empty handed and will be cursing their missed first-half chances. There are still however plenty of positives for China to take from the game. For the entirety of the match the team displayed a real fight and tenacity, showing they were a team ready to compete with best in the world. They were also defensively solid throughout the game and in the end only a moment of brilliance from Gwinn stopped them from taking a point against the world number two.
Now all eyes will turn to China’s second group game against South Africa on the thirteenth. Few gave South Africa much of chance of getting a result at this World Cup. But after giving Spain a scare in their opening match, China will need to take South Africa seriously. They will need to play with the same focus and intensity that they played with against Germany, in order to ensure they triumph in what will be a must win game.
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