Twice World Champions, eight-times European champions but never Olympic champions, Germany produced a typically solid performance to open their campaign in São Paulo but the early loss of influential midfielder Simone Laudehr to injury may prove costly later in the tournament.
Laudehr, a World Cup final goalscorer back in 2007, had already struck the crossbar with a long-range shot before her left ankle buckled under a late challenge from Lynett Mutokuto. Despite returning to the field Laudehr collapsed in pain soon after and German coach, Silvia Neid must hope that the injury is not as serious as it first looked.
Bayern Munich’s Sara Däbritz nodded in Dzsenifer Marozsán’s left wing corner midway through the first half with the Zimbabwe keeper Lindiwe Magwede flailing. She was similarly at fault when Alexandra Popp headed home substitute Leupolz’s cross in the 36th minute. Magwede completed a poor first half by dropping the ball after falling over her own player, her defence only cleared to Behringer who hit the post.
Zimbabwe, making their tournament debut, offered little in attack in the first half but when German keeper Schult weakly parried their first shot on target from Makore in the 50th minute, Kudakwashe Basopo followed up to score and half the deficit sparking the loudest cheers of The Games so far. Their joy was short-lived as almost immediately, Behringer’s swinging free kick from over 30 yards eluded Magwede.
Zimbabwe defended heroically for the next 20 minutes blocking everything Germany threw at them but they inevitably tired allowing the European champions three more goals in the last 15 minutes. When Majika was harshly adjudged to have fouled Leupolz, Magwede saved Behringer’s penalty but allowed the German’s follow-up shot to squeeze under her.
The impressive Leupolz ran through to side-foot home in the 83rd minute after chesting down Popp’s flick on from Marozsán’s long pass. In the final minute, Eunice Chibanda, wrong-footed by Lena Goessling’s cross from the right, headed past her own keeper to make it 6-1 to Germany. Tougher tests lie in wait for the Europeans but the margin of their victory means they already have one foot in the quarter-finals.
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