Women's World Cup: Germany, China advance
Ottawa, Ontario — After coasting through the preliminary round of the Women's World Cup, forwards Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic provided a dominating reminder of why Germany is deserving of its top-rank billing.
Sasic scored twice, and Mittag added a goal and drew a penalty to set up another, in helping Germany advance to the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win to eliminate fifth-ranked Sweden in a Round of 16 game on Saturday.
"Benchmark? Yes. We measure ourselves against what we know we can achieve," German coach Silvia Neid said through an interpreter. "It was a very important game, maybe it was a key match because we haven't had many games of this quality yet in this World Cup."
Germany's only first-round blemish was a 1-1 tie against Norway. Otherwise, the Germans routed the Ivory Coast and Thailand, in scoring a tournament-best 15 goals.
Now the two-time World Cup champions will travel to Montreal, where they will face the winner of Sunday's match between third-ranked France and South Korea.
Disappointing as the finish was for Sweden, which ended the tournament without a victory, coach Pia Sundhage acknowledged it was going to take a near-perfect effort to beat Germany.
"Germany is a very good team, and they deserve to advance," Sundhage said. "We fought and we tried, but it was not good enough."
Mittag opened the scoring in the 24th minute, and then Sasic scored the next two — including one on a penalty kick — in staking Germany to a 3-0 lead by the 78th minute.
The Swedes finally countered with Linda Sembrant scoring on a header off Therese Sjogran's free kick from outside the box in the 82nd minute. Sweden nearly cut the margin to 3-2 a minute later, when Sofia Jakobsson broke in alone. However, Jakobsson was stopped by goalie Nadine Angerer, who came out of the crease to cut the angle.
Dzsenifer Marozsan then sealed the win by scoring in the 88th minute.
Sweden had the misfortune of opening the tournament in the so-called Group of Death, alongside the United States, Australia and Nigeria. After three ties and a third-place finish, the Swedes then had to play in their third time zone in two weeks, and face Germany on three days' rest.
Aware of how tired the Swedes might be, Neid said the plan was to apply the pressure from the opening minute.
"We couldn't go into this match in a let's-wait-and-see-what-happens attitude," Neid said. "We wanted to deny them the feeling that it would be simple to play against Germany."
Alexandra Popp and Simone Laudehr both had scoring chances in the opening two minutes, before Mittag finally put Germany on the board.
Named the player of the match, Mittag forced a turnover at the left sideline of the Swedish zone. Playing give-and-go with Sasic, Mittag had a clear path to the net when she got a shot off from just outside the box and banked it in off the far right post.
"I think right now my self-confidence is pretty good," Mittag said.
Mittag also enjoys the chemistry she and Sasic have developed, with the two sharing the World Cup scoring lead with five goals each.
"I think we know how to play together. She likes to go deep. I like to be close to the back line," Mittag said. "I think it's just good for both of us."
Mittag played a role in Sasic's goal scored on a penalty kick in the 38th minute. Mittag had the ball inside the box, but was tripped up by Amanda Ilestedt as she was attempting to get off a shot. As Sasic approached the ball, Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl guessed wrong by diving to her right. Sasic easily turned her right foot to punch the ball into the unattended side.
Though replays showed Mittag might have fallen on her own, Sweden coach Sundhage refused to raise much of a fuss.
"There are a couple of calls you probably could argue," Sundhage said. "At the same time, if you want to win that kind of game when Germany plays that well, you need everything going your way. And it did not."
The Germans improved to 18-7 all-time against Sweden. And they've won 12 of the past 14 meetings, since defeating Sweden 2-1 in the 2003 World Cup championship game.
China 1, Cameroon 0: Wang Shanshan scored early and China held on to stay alive.
China, ranked No. 16 in the world, will play the winner of Monday night's game between the United States and Colombia. A number of players from the U.S. team watched the match at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
China was playing without its head coach Hao Wei on the sidelines, after he was sent off from the team's final group stage match against New Zealand.
Cameroon, No. 53, was the lowest ranked of the 16 teams that advanced to the elimination round. Many players remained on the field sobbing after the final whistle.
China advanced to the knockout stage by finishing second to host Canada in Group A. After falling 1-0 in the opener to the Canadians on Christine Sinclair's penalty kick in second-half stoppage time, China beat the Netherlands and played to a 2-all draw with New Zealand.
A ref ruled Hao interfered with New Zealand's Ria Percival on the sideline as she attempted to throw in the ball, and ejected him from the match. Because of the ejection, Hao had to part from his team once they arrived at the stadium. He watched from the stands.
Assistant Chang Weiwei stood in for Hao on the sidelines.
Wang Shanshan scored in the 12th minute, taking a feed from Li Donga off a corner kick and popping the ball past Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom.
Wang Lisi, who came into the match with a team-leading two goals in Canada, charged in on Ngo Ndom in the 50th minute, but stumbled and her kick went wide. Her stoppage time goal gave China a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the opening round.
Ngo Ndom came far out of the goal in the 60th minute and it almost cost her when Wang Shanshan's shot got past her, but the ball rolled just wide.
Cameroon pressured in the final minutes. Gaelle Enganamount, with her distinctive blond hair, looked to challenge China goalkeeper Fei Wang, but couldn't connect. Sub Henriette Akaba's header in the 87th minute sailed off the mark.
There was a scary moment in stoppage time when Han Peng collided with a Cameroon player and the two knocked heads. The collision caused a cut on Han's head, which trainers taped before leading her from the field. She returned to play the final few moments.
Cameroon, runner-up at the 2014 African championship, was making its first-ever appearance in the World Cup. The Lionesses were just the second African team to advance to the knockout stage after Nigeria in 1999.
In the group stage, Cameroon defeated Ecuador 6-0 before falling to Japan 2-1. But they pulled off a hard-fought 2-1 victory over No. 19 Switzerland in the group finale in Edmonton, sending their sizeable following of fans into a frenzy.
China has played in the World Cup six times, but missed out four years ago in Germany. The Steel Roses have never won a title, but they made the final in 1999, only to be defeated by the United States on penalty kicks at the Rose Bowl.
Cameroon came into the match with yellow cards on six of its players.