Popp’s double helps Germany ruin Morocco’s Women’s World Cup debut

<span>Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/rN.Cf0l9np7N4K89JWzNSQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/63ff730d12e73aa452eaf002de04f493″ src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/rN.Cf0l9np7N4K89JWzNSQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/63ff730d12e73aa452eaf002de04f493″></img></p>
<p><figcaption><span>Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images</span></figcaption></p>
<p>After an opening night upset and some unexpectedly close games so far in the Women’s World Cup, there was an open, albeit optimistic question as to whether Morocco could give Germany a scare. But it was evident from the first whistle that Morocco were not going to be able to keep a clean sheet for long and after a slower first half the Euro 2022 runners-up brushed the debutants aside with an emphatic 6-0 victory in the opening Group H game.</p>
<p>The divide between the world No 2 and No 72 was just too big and it took 11 minutes for Germany’s captain, Alexandra Popp, to find the back of the net, getting her head on a cross from Kathrin Hendrich on the left. Morocco’s goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi and a defender came out to meet the ball but both misjudged it, leaving Popp with a completely open goal.</p>
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<p>Crosses proved to be the biggest issue for the Atlas Lionesses, who are the first Arab nation to qualify for the tournament. Popp secured her second goal from a corner in the 39th minute even though it appeared she was facing the wrong way. The fact Germany were only two up by half-time was thanks to some solid last-gasp intercepts and tackles from Zineb Redouani and Sarah Kassi.</p>
<p>The Moroccan forwards did expose some shakiness in Germany’s defence, which was missing Marina Hegering, something Colombia and South Korea, the other teams in Group H, will be better placed to take advantage of. The Morocca captain, Ghizlane Chebbak, and Rosella Ayane made promising runs forward, linking up nicely and forcing Germany’s goalkeeper, Merle Frohms, into action, but were unable to convert their chances.</p>
<p>In the second half came the rain in Melbourne, and the start of a German onslaught. Just seconds into the half, a cross from Klara Bühl was sent into the upright by Lina Magull, the rebounding ball going straight back to Bühl who fired it past Er-Rmichi to score Germany’s third.</p>
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Germany pose for a group photograph after their 6-0 win over Morocco. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

In reply, the pressure from Ayane, Anissa Lahmari and Chebbak up front continued to cause problems for Germany’s back line, who at times seemed to scramble back. There was a glimmer of hope for the Atlas Lionesses after a lovely flick back from Ayane to Chebbak just outside the area, over to Lahmari, whose resulting goal was ruled offside.

Two own goals in the 54th and 79th minutes, from Hanane Aït El Haj and Yasmin Mrabet, put the result even further beyond doubt, and added insult to injury for a Moroccan team showing glimpses of creativity on their World Cup debut. A sixth goal, this time from the substitute Lea Schüller, in the final minute of regular time showed how intent Germany are on making their mark.

Morocco’s debut at the Women’s World Cup brought with it more than one first: the first Arabic nation, the first from north Africa, and for a first encounter with the team ranked second in the world the Atlas Lionesses’s performance was far from embarrassing. They will be able to take positives from their performance – in particular the pace and pressure in the midfield forcing errors from Germany – as well as finding much room for improvement.

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