Alexandra Popp

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

Germany handles Nigeria, books quarterfinal spot at World Cup

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Germany cruised to the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals with a 3-0 defeat of Nigeria on Saturday in the first Round of 16 match of the tournament.

Alexandra Popp, Sara Dabritz, and Lea Schuller led the way, with VAR again playing a role in the score line.

[ MORE: USMNT faces T&T for first time since Couva ]

Popp powered home a header which needed to withstand VAR review because an offside but stationary Svenja Huth could’ve been adjudged to be in the line of sight of Nigerian keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.

Dabritz converted a penalty kick when Video Assistant Referee spotted a cleats-up foul on Lina Magull following a whiffed clearance from Nigeria’s Evelyn Nwabuoku.

The third goal was a sight, as Germany put the result to bed through the 21-year-old Schuller. It was her first goal at a World Cup.

2019 Women’s World Cup preview: Groups A, B and C

Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images
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The Women’s World Cup begins Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where hosts France will tangle with South Korea to kick off a month-long chase for the honor of being crowned the best team in women’s football.

Here’s the lowdown on half of the field.

Group A

The inside track: Hosts France are hoping for a title, or at least a Top Three finish for the first time in history. The French have lost just once since the start of 2018 and have Eugenie Le Sommer leading the line. Norway would present a genuine title threat were it not for the continued boycott of national team duty by Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Ada Hegerberg, who is protesting for equality. South Korea is hoping for a knockout round game, while Nigeria is hoping its dominance of Africa can translate past the group stage for just the second time in eight tries.

Game schedule

Friday, June 7: France v. South Korea

Saturday, June 8: Norway v. Nigeria

Wednesday, June 12: Nigeria v. South Korea

Wednesday, June 12: France v. Norway

Monday, June 17: Nigeria v. France

Monday, June 17: South Korea v. Norway

Three star players to watch

1) Eugenie Le Sommer, France (below)
2) Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria
3) Maren Mjelde, Norway

Prediction

France and Nigeria win their openers, meeting for the Group A winners’ path on the final day. The hosts get it done.

Eugenie Le Sommer (Photo by Joachim Sielski/Getty Images)

Group B

The inside track: Two-time World Cup champions Germany are serial EURO winners and a tournament favorite on home continent soil. Once runners-up to the USWNT, China is seeking to reclaim its status as a threat on the world stage. PSG midfielder Wang Shuang should help that along a bit. Spain’s first World Cup saw a winless 20th place finish, so almost anything would be an improvement. South Africa has not won this year.

Game schedule

Saturday, June 8: Germany v. China

Saturday, June 8: Spain v. South Africa

Wednesday, June 12: Germany v. Spain

Thursday, June 13: South Africa v. China

Monday, June 17: South Africa v. Germany

Monday, June 17: China v. Spain

Three star players to watch

1) Alexandra Popp, Germany
2) Patricia Guijarro, Spain
3) Wang Shuang, China

Prediction

Germany cruises through the group stage, and the final day’s meeting between China and Spain sorts the second slot.

Alexandra Popp (Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images)

Group C

The inside track: Australia has a puncher’s chance in any game, especially given Sam Kerr’s potential to do something wonderful at any given moment.  Brazil is on an almost-absurd nine-match losing run, all matches coming away from South America. The Italians have fared well in the run-up, without testing themselves much. Khadija “Bunny” Shaw will bring a prolific goal scoring record to France for the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica.

Game schedule

Sunday, June 9: Australia v. Italy

Sunday, June 9: Brazil v. Jamaica

Thursday, June 13: Australia v. Brazil

Friday, June 14: Jamaica v. Italy

Tuesday, June 18: Jamaica v. Australia

Tuesday, June 18: Italy v. Brazil

Three star players to watch

1) Sam Kerr, Australia
2) Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, Jamaica
3) Marta, Brazil

Prediction

All four teams remain alive on the final day, with Australia and Brazil earning places in the knockout rounds.

Khadija Shaw of Jamaica (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)