Germany 2 Canada 1
BERLIN — She busted her nose and then bent it like Beckham. And then simply for effect, Canada’s star striker Christine Sinclair blew a kiss to her coach.
Sporting a crooked nose and a well-deserved black captain’s armband, Sinclair scored Canada’s lone goal on a lovely bending free kick Sunday as the sixth-ranked Canadians opened the 2011 Women’s World Cup with a 2-1 loss to two-time defending champion Germany.
“That’s Sinky,” said Canadian striker Melissa Tancredi. “She plays through anything, which is what a captain should do.”
Sinclair’s goal in the 82nd minute — No. 117 of her illustrious career — marked the first the mighty German side had conceded in a World Cup tournament since 2003. It also came 34 minutes after Canada’s powerful five-foot-nine striker was knocked to her knees, plowed in the face by an elbow from Babett Peter.
“I looked at (Sinclair) — she takes the front post on corners — and thought ‘Oh my. Her nose is like a big zig-zag,”’ said Canada’s ’keeper Erin Mcleod. “I said ‘Do you really wan’ to still be here?’ And she said ’Yeah, I got it.’ She’s tough. She wears the armband for a reason.”
The 28-year-old Sinclair was down on all fours on the Olympiastadion grass for several minutes after the harsh blow, for which no foul was given, and then was helped to the sidelines where she argued with a Canadian medical official to let her go back into the game. She swatted away his hand and said “I’m fine. Don’t touch me.”
Canada’s coach Carolina Morace was advised to pull her out of the game, the medical official bending Sinclair’s nose to display the damage. But the Burnaby, B.C., native was back in the game moments later, and Morace has no doubt her gutsy captain will be back on the pitch Thursday when the Canadians take on France.
“What do you think? If she played today with the nose broken, do you think I can take her off the field next time?” the Italian coach said with a laugh.
Sinclair was sent to a nearby Berlin hospital immediately after the game, and Morace said she’ll likely wear a protective mask in the next game.
“It doesn’t look the prettiest right now,” Tancredi said, with a giggle.
“I’m not a doctor. I don’t know much about this. But it didn’t look the best,” she added. (Tancredi should know, having suffered a badly broken nose in a friendly with Brazil in the leadup to the 2008 Olympics.)
Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi scored for No. 2 Germany, the favourites to hoist a third World Cup in their own country, and a squad that hasn’t lost a World Cup match since 1999, nor an opening game of a World Cup tournament — ever.
Garefrekes scored on a header in the 10th minute, beating defender Marie-Eve Nault to a cross from Peter from the left wing to the right side of the box, launching an arcing shot past McLeod that brought the festive crowd of 73,680 — a sellout at the storied Olympiastadion — to its feet.
Okoyino Da Mbabi doubled Germany’s lead in the 42nd when she sprinted through Canada’s backline to run onto a right-footed lob from Garefrekes for a 40-yard breakaway. She calmly slotted the ball past McLeod from the top of the six-yard-box as Morace hollered at the referee that the play was offside.
Television replays showed Nault had played the German goalscorer onside.
Sinclair’s goal, a curling boot from 25 yards that soared past ’keeper Nadine Angerer and into the top right corner, breathed some late life into a Canadian side that was under attack. Emily Zurrer had a chance to tie it up in the dying minutes, but fired a cross from Robyn Gayle just high. It was one of numerous chances the sixth-ranked Canadians couldn’t make good on.
Sinclair missed on a glorious chance in the sixth minute when Jonelle Filigno sent her in with a clear shot on net from just outside the 18-yard-box. The 28-year-old fired the ball over the net, rubbing her face in frustration as she jogged back up the field.
“She’s fabulous, I have nothing but good things to say about (Sinclair),” said Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt. “When that free kick happened, we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do, and she said, ’I got it, don’t worry. This is mine.’ I think she wanted to redeem herself from that first shot she had in the first half. And she did great.”
The capacity crowd and the stadium itself were the other stars of the tournament’s official opening match. The fans that poured into Olympiastadion — almost all of them dressed in the black, red and gold of Germany — marked the largest crowed assembled for a women’s World Cup match since the gathering of 90,185 that watched the Americans win the 1999 final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“Amazing,” said Schmidt. “Words cannot describe. I think it may not ever happen again in women’s soccer and I’m very thankful and blessed to have been a part of it. I’ve been dreaming about this game today for a very long time and it still blew my expectations of what I thought it was going to be.”
The storied stadium was a picture-perfect setting. Thousands of fans were already bouncing to live music and guzzling beer on the plaza outside the tournament’s biggest venue a couple of hours before kickoff, the Germans decked out in an array of festive hats and wigs, and painted faces.
“Standing in the tunnel, we were like, wow, this is actually happening for real, and then for the gate to open up and the crowd to go crazy, it couldn’t help but put a smile on your face,” Schmidt said. “I couldn’t thank them enough for the atmosphere they created, especially for women’s soccer. It’s fantastic.”
Pockets of Canadian flags dotted the stadium — Canadian Soccer Association officials said 500 Canadians were in attendance — and the Canadian players received a warm ovation when they ran onto the pitch for warmup.
“Fantastic,” Morace said of the crowd. “I love soccer, I was a player too and I hope that many countries will copy what the German federation do for German soccer.”
The Canadians now face No. 7 France in a game they can’t lose. The French edged 27th-ranked Nigeria 1-0 in the tournament’s first game Sunday in Sinsheim.
The top two teams in each of the four groups of the 16-country tournament advance to the quarter-finals.