Germany looks every bit a favorite in dispatching Nigeria to open Women's World Cup knockout round

Yahoo Sports

There’s a sense that Germany, one of the pre-tournament favorites, did close to the minimum necessary to win their group.

They still swept through it – and then put together their most complete performance to start the knockout stage.

Germany was composed, incisive and largely unencumbered by Nigeria in a 3-0 win Saturday in Grenoble, ensuring yet another spot in the quarterfinals, a stage it’s never failed to reach through eight total Women’s World Cups.

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Alexandra Popp (11) celebrates after scoring Germany's first goal against Nigeria on Saturday. (Getty)
Alexandra Popp (11) celebrates after scoring Germany's first goal against Nigeria on Saturday. (Getty)

Yes, Nigeria was the final third-place team to qualify for the knockout round, and would have been out if Chile had converted a late penalty kick. But the Super Falcons still offered an organized defense and threat on the counter.

Germany didn’t care. Patient and prodding, the Germans took a deserved lead in the 20th minute as Alexandra Popp rose to meet a Lina Magull corner

Nigeria’s marking let them down, as several defenders in Popp’s vicinity were caught ball-watching.

The concession clearly lingered as Germany drew a penalty a few minutes later. VAR review awarded the spot kick after Evelyn Nwabuoku left her studs up on a challenge in the box against Magull, and Sara Däbritz converted for her third goal of the tournament.

As might be expected, Germany let up a bit with the two-goal advantage, and Nigeria strung together a couple chances as a result. But the last, and arguably best, goal of the afternoon sealed the game in the 82nd minute, when Lea Schüller absolutely ripped a bad giveaway lower-left 90:

Germany had to adjust in the group stage following an injury to its on-ball magician Dzsenifer Marozsan. With the No. 10 out, the Germans’ playmaking drifted toward wider areas, which Nwabuoku and Nigeria’s wings struggled to keep up with Saturday.

Marozsan returned to the bench for the game but didn’t play. If she can approximate her top form in the coming game(s), Germany gains another dimension in the attack and becomes perhaps an even bigger favorite in what’s generally considered the weaker half of the bracket.

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