Germany, France into quarterfinals at World Cup

Germany and England proved that timing is key at the women’s

World Cup, winning matches when it counts to bounce back and top

their respective groups with poise, even some bravado.

With its greatest ever player benched due to poor form, Germany

didn’t miss Birgit Prinz and two first-half headers compensated for

some poor second-half defending to give the hosts a 4-2 win over

France to top Group A. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi sealed the match with

a fine volley late in the game.

”We showed class,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid. ”Now we

are really into this tournament. The players showed what they are

made of.”

So did England.

The team staved off the threat of early elimination with an

equally confidence-boosting 2-0 win over Japan. The victory gave it

top spot in Group B and produced a stunning goal for the World Cup

highlights reel, a 21-meter precision lob from Ellen White.

The results pit Germany against Japan in Wolfsburg and England

versus France in Leverkusen on Saturday. Groups C and D are decided

on Wednesday, with Brazil, Sweden and the United States already

through.

The day featured the first red card, the first penalty – even

the first floodlights blackout. But more importantly, the biggest

benching of the tournament so far.

Prinz is the competition’s all-time top scorer with 14 goals and

was expected to hit at least one goal in her fifth straight World

Cup. After Germany’s best performance so far, it is unclear if

Prinz’s sullen demeanor will light up again for the next two

weeks.

After two one-goal wins, Germany was second behind France and

badly needed a win, not only to take the group but also to give the

team, and a nation of besotted fans, confidence again.

Four goals did that, even though a weakness at corners revealed

an unexpected blind spot.

Instead of Prinz, it was Inka Grings who inspired the team with

two goals.

One came from a penalty after France goalkeeper Berangere

Sapowicz was sent off for swiping Fatmire Bajramaj off her feet,

the first red card in 10 days of competition.

The score of 3-1 and 11 against 10 should have allowed Germany

to coast, but France came back through Laura Georges’ header and

even came close to equalizing before Celia Okoyino da Mbabi sent

the 45,867 fans at the soldout Borussia Park celebrating into the

night.

”Now we want to build on this,” Okoyino da Mbabi said.

England understands the surging feeling.

After a lackluster first two games, England was spectacular in

its decisive game. After 15 minutes, Sophie Bradley sent a deep

ball from her half toward Ellen White, who spotted goalkeeper Ayumi

Kaihori off her line. She let the ball bounce once before lobbing

it over Kaihori with exquisite precision from 21 meters out.

In the 66th, England came up with a second quality goal, when

Rachel Unitt shrugged off several Japanese defenders to set up

substitute forward Rachel Yankey for a delicate chip.

”They were both tremendous finishes,” said midfield standout

Jill Scott.

Japan was supposed to be all about skill while England relied on

power and push, but with an inspired performance and great goals,

the Europeans disproved those notions.

With the tournament on the line, England was aggressive and

played with passion throughout, while Japan rarely thrilled the

crowd of 20,777.

”We managed to startle them somewhat,” England coach Hope

Powell said.

In the other Group B game, New Zealand came back with two late

goals to draw 2-2 with Mexico. Both were eliminated.

The worst miscue of the night? The floodlights that went out in

Dresden for 12 minutes. When they came back on, Perpetua Nkwocha

gave Nigeria a 1-0 win over Canada in a match between two teams

already eliminated.