Germany made it two wins from two at the Women’s World Cup as they claimed a narrow win over Spain in Group B.
Bayern Munich midfielder Sara Daebritz’s scrappy first-half goal settled the contest and put the side ranked number two in the world all-but through to the knockout stages.
Spain dominated possession but the Germans scored against the run of play when Daebritz pounced on some hesitant defending to bundle the ball in at the far post.
The result meant that Germany will be assured of their place in the last 16 if South Africa fail to beat China on Thursday, while realistically they look set to top the group.
Two-time winners Germany – who opened with with a win over China – have reached at least the quarter-finals in all of the previous seven World Cups, while the Spaniards – who beat South Africa 3-1 on Saturday – have qualified for the tournament for the second time.
Efficient and resolute, the Germans remain unbeaten in 14 games since March 2018, while they are yet to lose to Spain after five meetings.
Germany were without influential midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan, who may miss the rest of the tournament after breaking a toe in their opening win over China, but still possessed the talent and resolve to emerge with the victory.
Jorge Vilda’s side had edged the first half, which began amid torrential, wet conditions in Valenciennes, but Real Sociedad’s Nahikari Garcia scuffed wide after being played clean through and Atletico Madrid’s Silvia Meseguer fired off target from the edge of the box after a neat move.
But after Alexandra Popp’s strong downward header was well saved by Barcelona keeper Sandra Panos, Spain skipper Marta Torrejon took too long to clear the loose ball and Daebritz pounced to slide the ball in on the rebound.
After the break, Torrejon’s free-kick hit the wall from one of Spain’s best chances, before substitute Klara Buehl blazed over at the other end for Germany, and they were solid at the back to fend off a comeback.
‘A question of will-power’
Germany boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: “It is a difficult group. The first two matches were difficult and now we have six points.
“Maybe for other teams in other groups it was easier for them, but it was more complicated for us.
“We know we have to improve some things but we are very happy to have six points. Now we can build on that.”
Goalscorer Sara Daebritz: “It was a question of will-power. Everybody gave 100%, right from the beginning.
“We know there is still a lot of room for improvement. The Spanish players were very good with the ball.
“We won the match and that’s what matters. We have six points after two matches and that was our goal.
“Now we can show in the third match how well we play football.”
Spain boss Jorge Vilda: “We always want to win but at least we’ve shown what Spain can do, even though we were defeated. A lot of the time, specifically in the first half, we played good football.
“Mistakes cost us against this good side. They’re the second best team in the world and we were able to dominate them.
“We weren’t able to put the cherry on top of the cake with a goal and we were penalised on one error.
“We just need to focus on the China match now. We need to keep a cool head. We have never been as close as we are now. Every day we go a step further.”
Germany continue superb group-stage record – stats
Germany are unbeaten in their last 18 Women’s World Cup Group Stage games, the outright longest such run in the history of the competition (W14 D4).
Spain suffered only their second defeat in their last eight games in all competitions (W4 D2).
Germany have lost only one of their last 11 World Cup matches against European opposition (W6 D4), losing their last such game against England in the 2015 edition.
Despite mustering 16 shots in the game, Spain only directed two on target, with the last of them coming in the 47th minute of the contest.
Germany’s Sara Dabritz has netted three goals in her five Women’s World Cup Group Stage appearances, with those goals coming from a total of five shots on target.
What next Group B?
Group B’s other teams South Africa and China do not play their second match until Thursday (20:00 BST) in Paris.
Then Spain face China in Le Havre on Monday (17:00) at the same time as Germany’s final group game against South Africa in Montpellier.
The top two teams will qualify automatically for the last 16, while the four best third-placed sides from the tournament’s six groups will join them.