Germany Dominates But Settles for Tie
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Norway became the first side to put a goal past Nadine Angerer at this World Cup with a 1-1 draw which punished Germany's first-half profligacy to postpone the decision over which team will top Group B until Monday. Germany could have had the group victory wrapped up in an inspired first half at Lansdowne Stadium, but Norway's recovery gave plenty of food for thought. Here are three observations that emerged from the tie in Ottawa.
1. Marozsan makes her mark
It is highly unlikely that Norway was so naïve as to consider the Germany side that demolished the Ivory Coast 10-0 would be the same it had to face. Nevertheless, Norway looked like it had not given due consideration to Dzsenifer Marozsan. She was the only change Silvia Neid made from her first selection at this WWC, although had Marozsan been fully fit she would arguably have started already on Sunday.
After acting like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights for the opening five minutes, with four at the back complemented by five deep players in midfield, Norway totally forgot to pay attention to the 1. FFC Frankfurt midfielder as Marozsan, coming from deep, was given the freedom of the field to progress unchallenged and show why she lists Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the influences on her own game.
Her shot from 25 yards was initially saved by Norway goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, who could do no more than to parry it out to the feet of Anja Mittag -- who has now scored four goals in the tournament. Down a goal in the sixth minute, the Norwegians already had an unenviable challenge on their hands.
More Ronaldo-esque footwork had the fans oohing before an ambitious yet perfectly executed 30-yard effort that would have been challenging for Hjelmseth had it not arrowed straight at her.
Marozsan played a more anonymous second half with a neglectful loss of possession late, but Germany will sure be glad she is back and it has time on its hands to get her able to deliver for more than 45 minutes.
2. Fear not Germany
It might have taken all of 43 minutes for Norway to get its first shot on goal, but it confirmed that for all Germany's flair and dexterity going forward, a few questions still need to be asked about its defensive organization. Even Ivory Coast was able to lay bare Germany's back line in a 10-0 defeat which, had Rebecca Elloh had a little more composure, could well have ended 10-2.
Had Angerer not been in Golden Glove mode, Isabell Herlovsen would have brought Norway back into the game just before halftime. So how much is Germany actually relying on Angerer in Canada? And will any nation test her enough to find out? Similar questions were -- and still are being -- asked of Germany's men's team. It won the World Cup last summer without any other side, Algeria notwithstanding, actually showing the courage to get at its defense. That is because the fear of committing too many players forward far outweighs the courage of giving it a go and really putting Germany to the test.
Norway's behavior in the first half in Ottawa confirmed the thesis that the priority is stopping Germany first, then trying to do some offensive damage. Until these priorities trade places, Germany can expect to be given an easy ride to Vancouver. No wonder it posted 19 shots in the first half Thursday (after peppering the Ivory Coast goal 21 times in the Sunday's first half). No other nation has managed more than 12 shots in the opening 45 minutes so far at this WWC. Who is to say that it would not have more shots if a team tried to act rather than react. Who will be the first to try to find out is anybody's guess.
Norway did come out of its shell in the second half, and Germany was exposed for some flaws, too, even if it took a spectacular free-kick from Maren Mjelde to bring Even Pellerud's team level. After Angerer fished that ball out of her net, however, Norway retreated with a certain degree of satisfaction at puncturing Germany's perfection -- but lacking the ambition to do it again.
3. Battle for the Golden Boot
Pre-tournament predictions as to who might emerge as the WWC's top goal scorer included the likes of Celia Sasic, Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair and Marta, but was Mittag on many lists? Probably not. Although also a forward by trade, Mittag's international scoring record pales in comparison to Sasic's: 36 goals in 121 games, compared to 60 in 105. She is more of a supporting actress in the Germany offense, one with physical strength and intelligence to make room for her teammates, primarily Sasic, and then provide the assist.
So far, it seems Mittag wants more of a lead role at this World Cup. Following her hat trick against the Ivory Coast, the 30-year-old -- also one of Germany's most experienced campaigners -- gave Neid's side the lead early on.
Alexandra Popp is the third prong of Germany's offensive line, and she would arguably be ahead of both her teammates if only she was on top of her game. "It's frustrating because that's actually my strength," she said with a wry smile after missing at least three headers against the Ivory Coast. She sent another two an inch the wrong side of the post in the first half against Norway. Frustrating might no longer be her chosen adjective to describe her "only" one goal so far in Canada.