The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Germany beats Nigeria 1-0 to claim Women's World Cup
MONTREAL - In keeping with the rest of their tournament, Germany left it late before it could claim victory.
The Germans scored in the eighth minute of extra time to beat Nigeria 1-0 and claim the under-20 Women's World Cup at Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
Coming into the final, Germany had scored in the last 10 minutes of a game in four of five contests. The victory is Germany's record-tying third top finish at this competition, after winning the event in 2004 and 2010.
"Obviously we never expected to be standing here as champions," said German coach Maren Meinert through a translator. "Considering the teams we had to play against, we're especially proud and happy to be here, to have achieved such an amazing thing.
"The game today was crazy, like all the other games we played in this tournament. The one thing that was really important and crucial was that we not only played well offensively, but we also played defensively. The whole team worked together, and I'm very proud."
Nigeria was the better team for much of the game, as the Falconets pinned the Germans in their own half for lengthy periods of time. Nigeria's shots were dangerous, and its crosses constantly threatened the German defence. Midfielder Asisat Ochoala, who came into the game with a tournament-leading seven goals, was menacing throughout.
But it was Germany's Lena Petermann who broke the deadlock in extra time, firing home from close range past goalkeeper Sandra Chiichii for her third goal of the competition.
Forward Pauline Bremer of Germany got the play going, stripping Nigeria's Gladys Abasi of the ball on the edge of the 18-yard-box. Bremer walked in to the penalty area and squared the ball to Petermann, who scored Germany's 17th goal of the tournament.
"We showed again today that we're strong, physically," said Meinert. "Each player wants to do everything until the last minute, until the whistle. We've played so many difficult games in this tournament. We know the pain, and we know how much it hurts."
For the second time in four years, Germany were winners over Nigeria in the final of the under-20 tournament.
In 2010, with Meinert in charge, Germany's Alexandra Popp scored early in the final to defeat Nigeria's Falconets 2-0 in front of 24,633 in Bielefeld, Germany.
Nigerian coach Peter Dedevbo was looking for redemption on Sunday.
"We did our best to see that our image was redeemed," said Dedevbo. "We had opportunities to win this match in the first half. We created chances, but we couldn't take them. Germany had their chance, and they took it.
"We had an opportunity in the finals, and we threw it away. My players had an opportunity to wrap it up, and they threw it away."
Germany's win wasn't without controversy.
The Nigerians looked to have won the match and the title in the 85th minute of regular time when Oshoala, by far the game's best player, beat German goalkeeper Meike Kaemper to the ball with a header.
With the ball trickling towards the goal line, an overzealous Loveth Ayila, Oshoala's teammate, booted the ball in the back of the net for added emphasis. Ayila was in an offside position, however, and the goal was disallowed.
To make matters worse for Nigeria, video replay showed the ball had already crossed the line before Ayila got a foot on it.
"For that goal, I don't want to say anything about it," said Dedevbo. "I don't want to answer your question. Because I will answer it in a way you wouldn't like, in a way FIFA wouldn't like."
Kaemper, who made six saves on Sunday and was named the final's best player, thought the call on the pitch was the right one.
"The girl who headed the ball was not offside, but in my opinion, the girl who took the shot on goal was offside," she said through a translator.
It wasn't the first time, either, that Ayila got in Oshoala's way. The tournament's leading scorer was denied a promising opportunity in the 38th minute when Ayila walked into her shot, deflecting it wide.
Oshoala had another glorious chance in the 22nd minute when she stole the ball from German defender Margarita Gidion, walked in on a breakaway, and sidestepped Kaemper before finding the side netting.
The game was 0-0 at halftime, with Nigeria directing nine shots towards target to Germany's four.
But Germany began pulling away as the game wore on. Its best chance in regular time came late when Petermann walked in on the Nigerian net on a partial break in the 78th, but her shot was scooped up by Chiichii.
The Germans finished with 13 shots on target. Nigeria had six.
"We played a very compact game in the back," said Kaemper. "We were able to prevent Nigeria from having many direct chances. Everyone worked together. You can't defend perfectly against such a fast-paced and such a quick opponent."
There were 15,822 in attendance at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
Earlier in the day, France beat North Korea 3-2 in the third-place match. France's centre half Aissatou Tounkara scored the winner in the 79th minute to lead the Bleuettes to their first podium finish at the U-20 Women's World Cup.
"Our goal, at the very beginning, was to reach the final day, which we did," said French captain Griedge Mbock Bathy. "The bronze medal is a good reward, and we're going to celebrate."
In the semifinals, Nigeria beat North Korea 6-2, while Germany won 2-1 versus France.
Notes: In 2004, when the tournament was an U-19 format, Germany defeated Nigeria on penalties in the quarter-finals en route to its first championship. … Canada's Carol Anne Chenard refereed the final. Chenard was also the referee in charge of the 2010 final between Nigeria and Germany. … Next summer, six Canadian cities will host the 2015 Women's World Cup, the first senior FIFA tournament held in Canada. The month-long, 50-match event will run from June 6 to July 5, 2015, with the final game being played at Vancouver's BC Place.
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