Host Germany plays its second match in the Women’s World Cup at Commerzbank-Arena on Thursday against Nigeria and the two-time defending champions expect to play there two more times.
Commerzbank-Arena also hosts a semifinal and the final, and if Germany claims Group A as expected – and advances to its third straight final and fourth over the last five tournaments – it will make the stadium its home in mid-July.
With a victory over Canada already secured Sunday on opening day of the event, the Germans may be even more dangerous after allowing their first goal in the World Cup since the 2003 final.
Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi gave Germany a two-goal lead and it held on for a 2-1 victory over Canada, which got a second-half goal from Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair’s goal ended a streak of 679 minutes in World Cup play without giving up a goal, and left the 73,680 fans at Olympic Stadium and even Silvia Neid’s German side anxious for the final whistle.
“It was very, very close at the end. It could easily have finished 2-2, so I’m delighted we won our opening match and took all three points,” Neid said.
“An opening match like that is always a bit strange. You don’t know where you or the team are in terms of performance, so I’m delighted we were able to win the game,” Garefrekes added.
Now Germany switches its focus to Nigeria, which is desperate for a win after it lost its opener to France, 1-0. Germany should have no problem with Nigeria – it won a friendly late last year 8-0 – but improvement is needed.
“There’s plenty of room for improvement. We’re going to need to step it up – and we will,” Garefrekes said.
Nigeria was surprised by France in its opener, as the French put the Africans under a lot of pressure and used a 56th-minute goal from Marie-Laure Delie to secure the win.
Forward Perpetua Nkwocha admitted “we hadn’t planned to defend as much as we did, but nothing is lost yet.”
Yet is the key word. Nigeria needs to pull off one of the biggest upsets ever against Germany to have any real hopes of advancing to the next round. Nkwocha acknowledged, “We’ll now have to attack more against Germany.”
But it’s Nigeria that’s likely to be under attack again Thursday.