BOCHUM, Germany — Although France and host Germany qualified for the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals on Thursday, only one team was celebrating before the two meet to decide which tops Group A.
France eliminated Canada with a chastening 4-0 defeat to advance for the first time, while Germany stumbled over the line with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Nigeria.
Like Canada in the earlier game, Nigeria needed at least a point to stay in the tournament, and its players were given extra incentive with their regular match bonus doubled if they managed to beat the tournament host.
While the Nigerians failed to achieve their objective, other teams hoping to claim the World Cup trophy on July 17 will have taken note of the vulnerabilities they exposed in a lackluster Germany side.
The home side struggled for long periods in a bruising encounter in Frankfurt before Simone Laudehr made the breakthrough in the 54th minute, finishing off a goalmouth scramble with a thunderous volley high into the net.
Even then, the result was still far from certain with Germany, the No. 2-ranked team, ending the game under serious pressure from the 27th in the FIFA rankings.
“Up front there’s still a bit to do,” Germany coach Sylvia Neid said. “We are happy to advance but we have to work on our game.”
Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede summed it up: “If they play like they did today, I don’t think they will go to the finals.”
Germany midfielder Celia Okoyino da Mbabi can feel hard done by to have had an effort ruled out for offside in the 15th minute. TV replays showed she was level with the last defender when the ball was played.
Nigeria coach Ngozi Uche remained positive despite her side’s exit.
“I believe with what I have seen today there are better days ahead,” she said.
France had no such problems in Bochum against Canada.
It was a scrappy encounter that turned in France’s favor when Gaetane Thiney scored the first of her pair in the 24th, the winger left unmarked to cushion a header over the stranded Erin McLeod.
Her second came in the 59th, when the impressive Marie-Laure Delie caught Emily Zurrer in possession and fed the ball back for Thiney to shoot in off the right post.
“Everything worked right for us today,” said Thiney, the player of the game.
Camille Abily’s header from a corner put the game beyond doubt in the 66th, before substitute Elodie Thomis completed the tournament’s biggest win so far, adding the fourth in the 83rd, when she rounded the goalkeeper after French playmaker Louisa Necib sent her through.
Canada captain Christine Sinclair, who wore a protective mask after breaking her nose in the previous loss to Germany, was unable to exert her influence on the game.
“Maybe if Christine was at 100 percent, we would have been able to maintain more pressure up front,” said Canada coach Carolina Morace.
The former Italy striker blamed her players’ lack of regular league football for their inability to deal with the coherent pacy French attack.
Eleven of the 21 Canada squad are not affiliated with any team, compared to France, which can call on 10 members of the Champions League-winning Lyon.
“That is a problem for me,” Morace said, before she acknowledged the difficulties in establishing a league in Canada.
“It’s a large country and you have the weather … but I can’t see another solution.”
Germany is also looking for solutions, albeit for problems of a different sort.