09.06.2019 00:36 h

Germany and Spain open World Cup with tense wins as Norway cruise

Germany launched their World Cup campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over China on Saturday, while Spain came from behind against first-time participants South Africa to win 3-1.

In the final game of the evening, Norway scored three goals in 20 minutes in the middle of the first half to beat Nigeria 3-0 in Group A.

Teenage midfielder Giulia Gwinn scored the only goal for Germany, for whom Lena Oberdorf became her country's youngest World Cup player at 17 years and 171 days.

In the other Group B match, Jenni Hermoso converted two late penalties as Spain won for the first time at a Women's World Cup, rallying to beat a South Africa team that finished with 10 players.

The Germans complained after their game in Rennes that the Chinese had aimed for their ankles.

"They were often late in the tackles and kept catching our feet," said German captain Alexandra Popp. "We had to really grit our teeth."

Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said she had not been sure at one stage if star Dzsenifer Marozsan would finish the match.

"A lot of our players were caught on the ankle today, and it doesn't look good for some of them. What Dzseni Marozsan suffered today was brutal."

"We were a little surprised by the assertive approach of the Chinese, but it's a competitive game, not a friendly," she said.

Freiburg's Gwinn hit the winner on 66 minutes, smacking a shot that curled between the on-rushing Yang Li's legs and into the corner of goalkeeper Peng Shimeng's net after China tried to clear a corner.

"I am very happy to have scored a goal at the World Cup," said Gwinn, who also struck the opening goal when Germany beat China in the group stage of the under-20 World Cup down the road in Saint-Malo last August.

In Le Havre, South Africa took a shock lead with their first ever shot on target at a Women's World Cup when Thembi Kgatlana curled a right-foot shot into the top corner.

Spain dominated possession but found their path to goal blocked until 20 minutes from time.

A handball by South Africa captain Janine van Wyk's arm then presented Spain with a penalty, and Atletico Madrid striker Hermoso sent Andile Dlamini the wrong way from the spot.

With nine minutes left, Nothando Vilakazi cleared but caught Lucia Garcia with the follow through. After a VAR review, Vilakazi saw a second yellow card and Spain had a second penalty. Hermoso became the first woman to score from two penalties at a World Cup.

"When you have a penalty in a World Cup with a chance to tie the game, nerves are going to be there. I told myself I as taking shots in the park by my house," said Hermoso.

"Luckily the first went in but the second was even more complicated because it could mean the victory in this game. I just tried to hit the net and that was it."

Garcia added a third in the final minute, rounding Dlamini and shooting into the empty net.

Former champions Norway kicked off their campaign with a routine victory over Nigeria in Reims, despite the absence of Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg.

Guro Reiten's deflected shot gave the 1995 winners the lead on 17 minutes. That was quickly followed by a powerful strike from Lisa-Marie Utland. Nigeria's Osinachi Ohale turned a cross into her own net to put Norway in control by half-time.

"We started well," said Nigeria's Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby. "Goals change games. After they scored the first one we became a little bit nervous."

Reiten shone in the absence of Lyon striker Hegerberg who refused to come to the tournament.

"I don't think I have played better," Reiten said.

The victory puts Norway level with France at the top of the group.

"Our style will be totally different against France," said Norway coach Martin Sjogren. "We were on top of the match all the time. Against France it will be a totally different match."