The 2019 Women’s World Cup: Germany vs Nigeria
Germany 3-0 Nigeria
Onward and upward, then, to the start of the knockout stage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup finals, and there couldn’t have been a more visually arresting place to start this phase of the tournament than the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, a compact, modern little stadium sitting in the shadow of some beautiful mountains. This is Grenobles’s swansong for this tournament, but the sight of this ground, just a couple of thousand short of capacity, on a beautiful summers afternoon is one that will live long in the memory. There was to be no fairy tale below the mountains today, though. Germany brushed aside Nigeria without a great deal of difficulty this afternoon.
After their first two games, both of which resulted in one-nil wins, there were whispers about the workmanlikeness of the German team and concerns over whether they’d find the going more difficult against stronger opposition, having laboured to their opening wins against China and Spain. Germany’s response to this growing rumble of criticism could scarcely have been more emphatic. They won their final group match against South Africa by four goals to nil and now they’ve put three past Nigeria without reply. The defence remains as parsimonious as ever, but they’ve started scoring goals as well, now. Germany are moving up through the gears.
Nigeria, meanwhile, had probably reached the summit of their own version of The Peter Principle, the management concept in which people tend to climb hierarchical ladders until they reach their “level of incompetence” – the point at which they are no longer effective. They’ve had a mixed tournament. After a comprehensive defeat against Norway in their opening match, they bounced back with a comfortable win against South Korea in their second, and they were a shade unfortunate to emerge from their final group match against France on the wrong end of a defeat, following a controversial penalty kick and an even more controversial decision to let the host nation retake it because the Nigerian goalkeeper Nnadozie had committed football’s newest cardinal sin of having moved a couple of millimetres from the goal line before the ball was kicked.
Still, though, they made it through to the second round as one of the third-placed teams and they held their own for twenty minutes against Germany, who were underwhelming throughout the opening stages of this match, as well. After twenty minutes, though, a downward close range header from Alexandre Popp to give Germany the lead. VAR determined that we should have to wait for a few minutes before the goal was ratified because Svenja Huth was blocking Nnadozie view – the slow death of professional football continues apace – and then, seven minutes later, Germany doubled their lead.
Possession around the opposition penalty area has become the new waiting for a bus. Hang around for long enough and one will come along eventually. Ther goal was timed at seven minutes after the Popp goal, but this included the wasted time for the two VAR decisions. The actual amount of time that the ball was in play for between these two goals was just a few seconds. At the end of the half, only four minutes were added for all stoppages throughout the half. It’s a farce. The whole tournament is becoming a farce.
With Germany happy to slow things down in order to preserve themselves for stiffer tasks ahead, it was hardly surprising that the second half was relatively uneventful. Nigeria played attractive, intelligent football, but they lacked the incision to be able to break down an experienced German defence, and with eight minutes left to play Ayinde got stuck in several different minds, facing her own goal and with the ball at her feet, scuffed her backpass, and Lea Schuller nicked the ball and drove it low into the corner of the goal.
Things might have been different had Desire Oparanozie found herself a couple of millimetres closer to connecting with a low cross which would have reduced the deficit to one goal and might have given the remainder of the second half a considerably different complexion, but there will be few complaints at the final result. Germany were stronger than Nigeria in every department and thoroughly merit their place in the quarter-finals of the competition, where they will play the winners of the match betwen Sweden and Canada. Four games in, four clean sheets, and starting to fire on all cylinders in front of goal, Germany are starting to look plenty capable of winning this World Cup altogether.