Moenchengladbach, Germany, July 6 : Inka Grings scored twice to lead Germany to a 4-2 win over France to reclaim top spot in Group A at the women's World Cup on Tuesday.
Kerstin Garefrekes opened the scoring in the 25th minute, and Grings scored in the 32nd before halftime substitute Marie-Laure Delie pulled one back for France in the 56th.
France goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz was sent off for bringing down Fatmire Bajramaj in the 65th, and Grings converted the resulting penalty in the 68th.
Despite only having 10 players, France was back in it when defender Laura Georges scored from another corner in the 72nd in front of 45,867 fans at the soldout Borussia Park.
Celia Okoyino da Mbabi finally made the game safe when she scored in the 89th.
“We weren't able to hold onto the ball long enough,” Georges said. “We'll have to improve on that.”
Both teams had already qualified for the quarterfinals with only the order of the group to be decided. Germany will now play Japan, with France meeting England in the final eight.
Germany coach Silvia Neid opted to leave the tournament's all-time top scorer with 14 goals, Birgit Prinz, on the bench with exciting winger Bajramaj starting instead.
“She was very agile, very active and she defended well,” Neid said of Bajramaj. “Sometimes she missed the point of passing the ball to another player, but I'm really happy with her.”
The German coach said Prinz told her before the game she was not in a position to play from the beginning.
“Birgit is just as happy as anyone else today that we gained three points, and that we'll be playing Japan,” Neid said.
Okoyino da Mbabi sprayed a wonderful ball wide to Bajramaj in the 15th, but her effort from the right was easily dealt with by Sapowicz.
With both sides fielding attacking lineups, Germany began to dominate possession with quick passing and clever running, but simple mistakes betrayed a level of anxiety exacerbated by the expectant crowd.
Germany's pressure eventually paid off when Babett Peter's floated free kick was met by the head of Garefrekes for her second goal of the tournament.
“I tried to get to the ball and it was so great to see it go in.” Garefrekes said. “We knew we could play better and tonight we had fun.”
France pushed forward in search of a response, earning a corner from which Germany scored in a smooth counterattack.
Okoyino da Mbabi switched defense to attack with another wonderful pass to Grings. Her attempted return reached Simone Laudehr, whose perfect cross was headed past Sapowicz by Grings.
France coach Bruno Bini responded by bringing on Delie for Elodie Thomis at halftime, and the Montpellier striker pulled one back from a corner shortly afterward.
Grings then tested Sapowicz from a free kick, before Bajramaj fired disappointingly wide from a promising position.
Finnish referee Kirsi Heikkinen showed a straight red card to Sapowicz for fouling Bajramaj, who was through on goal.
Grings sent replacement goalkeeper Celine Deville the wrong way to restore Germany's two-goal lead. But Georges scored soon after to give the French some hope of an unlikely comeback.
Delie might have equalized a minute later but her shot drifted wide from close range, leading to stern words for her defense from Germany ‘keeper Nadine Angerer.
In the space of a minute, Grings hit the side-netting, Camille Abily cleared Bajramaj's effort off the line, and Lena Goessling hit the crossbar as Germany pushed forward.
Gaetane Thiney had the chance to equalize, before Okoyino da Mbabi put the result beyond doubt.
“We've a very strong squad but also some great individual players,” Okoyino da Mbabi said. “Now we've won the game, we've 21 very happy people.”