Germany wins, but finds it tough in Women’s WCup

France has taken every advantage of Germany’s struggles as the

home favorite at the Women’s World Cup, producing sparkling

displays with a fresh, confident attitude to take the lead in Group

A.

And where the expectation was for Germany’s Birgit Prinz, the

grand dame of World Cup football, to again rise to the occasion, it

has been French playmaker Louisa Necib who has produced the

magnificent displays that showcase her silken touch.

The first week of the tournament has shown the host team won’t

have a cakewalk to a third straight title. The ferocious home crowd

may help but can’t do the work on the pitch. Instead, neighboring

France has stolen Germany’s thunder.

They meet in their final group game on Tuesday with the easiest

ride to the final at stake.

Group A was always going to be the toughest of the four

opening-round groups, with three top seven teams vying for two

places.

Yet, while seventh-ranked France toyed with Canada, which is one

place higher, in a 4-0 drubbing on Thursday, second-ranked Germany

was troubled all the way by No. 27-ranked Nigeria before escaping

with a 1-0 win.

None was more shocked by the ugly turn of events than Prinz.

Angry at being substituted early in the second half two games in a

row, she slapped hands of teammates in raw anger rather than joy

and remained stonefaced even in victory.

”I cannot be happy. How could you be if you are replaced after

50 minutes,” Prinz said. Together with Brazil’s Marta, Prinz was

to be one of the stars of this World Cup. One goal will turn her

into the first woman to score in five World Cups. She already leads

the career list with 14 World Cup goals.

But she has been a shadow of her former self. Laborious with her

moves, slow with dribbles and predictable with passes, she has done

the team no favors in the 2-1 opening win against Canada nor

against Nigeria. Prinz has now gone six national team games without

a goal.

Coach Silvia Neid even refused to commit to Prinz starting the

game against France.

Even worse for Germany was the acknowledgment that the players

could be unsettled by rough play. Nigeria needed a win to stay in

the tournament and fought for every ball – and then some.

”I’ve never seen our team come out of the dressing room with so

many knocks and tapes,” Neid said.

And the coach knew the intensity would not change in the coming

games. ”They want to give their utmost against the home

favorites.”

France, however, has made the difference with skill and flair so

far. Les Bleus handled Nigeria better than Germany and had one of

those blissful games against Canada, when everything they tried

also worked, with great goals to show for it.

It is almost as if coach Bruno Bini refused to believe it. He

did not even want to fully celebrate after the 4-0 win over Canada

because Germany still had to play and a weird concoction of results

and mathematics could make qualification for the quarters less than

a certainty.

With the German win though, they were immediately in the clear.

Now all eyes will be on Necib, with her light touch and probing

passes. With her skills, she could easily take over from Prinz as

the dominant player in the game.

And all the momentum is with her.

”I can easily imagine that the French are on cloud nine now,”

said German defender Linda Bresonik.