Germany’s Giulia Gwinn knows how to make an immediate impact.
In her debut match at the Under-16s Women’s World Cup, the skillful midfielder received the player of the match award. Two years later, in her debut match at the Under-20s Women’s World Cup against Nigeria, she was the standout performer once again.
On the biggest stage of all, in her first match at the Women’s World Cup, the 19-year-old made her mark by scoring a wonderful goal from outside the box to give two-time champions Germany a 1-0 win against China.
Before a crowd of 15,283 at Rennes’ Roazhon Park, Gwinn become the third teenager to score for Germany in FIFA Women’s World Cup history and secured the player of the match award in the process.
“It gave her a lot of confidence and she showed what she’s capable of doing,” said Germany manager Martina Voss-Tecklenburg of Gwinn’s goal, which also made the Germans the joint-highest scorers in the tournament’s history, level with the U.S. on 112 goals.
“It’s obviously special to start the World Cup by scoring a goal. It will give me a lot of confidence,” Gwinn, whose previous eight caps came in friendlies, told reporters.
While Gwinn’s goal announced the arrival of a new talent on the world stage, China’s star forward Wang Shuang, nicknamed “Lady Messi,” surprisingly started on the bench as China frustrated the second-ranked team of the tournament.
Led by striker Yang Li, China created exciting chances in the first half but Li couldn’t capitalize, missing on an open goal and then striking the post just before halftime.
A thunderbolt to mark history
South African striker Thembi Kgatlana scored what will likely go down as one of the goals of the tournament to put her team ahead in its first-ever World Cup match, but the debutants gave up two penalties to lose 3-1 to Spain in Le Havre.
The current African Women’s Footballer of the Year uncorked a thunderbolt to the top right corner past the outstretched arms of Spanish keeper Sandra Panos to give South Africa a 25th-minute lead.
Nicknamed Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s joy at being present in France was clear for all to see as television cameras showed the team dancing towards the changing rooms, but from the 70th minute onwards the match turned Spain’s way when defender Janine Van Wyk was penalized for a handball in the box.
Atletico Madrid’s Jennifer Hermoso, playing in her 70th match for Spain, calmly took the penalty to tie the game.
A few minutes later, South African defender Nothando Vilakazi was given her second yellow card for a studs-up tackle in the box, allowing Hermoso to score another penalty. The Spaniard became the first player to score twice from the penalty spot in a Women’s World Cup match.
With one player down, South Africa gave up a third goal to Lucia Garcia, who skilfully evaded two defenders to plug the ball into an empty net.
Norway faces Nigeria in Reims in the third Group B match on Saturday.
Norway celebrates in style
Though Nigeria has competed at every Women’s World Cup, the Super Falcons have never progressed beyond the quarterfinals — reaching the last eight for the only time in 1999 — and the African champions face an uphill battle to progress from a difficult group after losing its opening match 3-0 to Norway.
The nine-time African champions threatened at times on the counter-attack through the pace of Francisca Ordega and star forward Asisat Oshoala, but defensive errors proved costly.
Euro Reiten put the former finalists ahead with a shot which deflected in off Onome Ebi at the near post and Lisa-Marie Upland produced an unstoppable strike 17 minutes later to double Norway’s advantage. The Norwegians celebrated in style as the outfield players congregated to take a fake selfie.
Before the break Osinachi Ohale’s own goal sealed Nigeria’s fate. The Super Falcons will next play South Korea, who lost 4-0 to France in the tournament’s opening match, and both teams will be desperate for a victory to boost their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.