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Germany passes to get past Canada

Japan, Norway win openers in World Cup play

Canada's Christine Latham, left, and Germany's Kerstin Stegemann battle for the ball in the second half of a game at the Women's World Cup Saturday in Columbus. Germany won, as did Japan and Norway.
Canada's Christine Latham, left, and Germany's Kerstin Stegemann battle for the ball in the second half of a game at the Women's World Cup Saturday in Columbus. Germany won, as did Japan and Norway.
Jay Laprete, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maren Meinert assisted on two second-half goals, including the go-ahead score by Stefanie Gottschlich in Germany's 4-1 victory Saturday night over Canada in the opening doubleheader of the World Cup.

The Germans moved to the top of Group C. Japan and Argentina played later Saturday.

Meinert sent a cross that bounced once inside the penalty box and Gottschlich bent low to head a soft shot from 8 yards out over goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc for a 2-1 lead in the 46th minute. Meinert also set up Birgit Prinz's goal in the 75th minute for a 3-1 lead. Meinert's cross inside the 6-yard box was headed by Prinz into the top left corner.

The Canadians started aggressively and Christine Sinclair shocked Germany with a goal four minutes into the game.

Kristina Kiss lifted a 35-yard direct kick over a wall of two defenders and Sinclair outjumped a defender near the right post and headed a low shot inside the far post. Goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg dove to her left but couldn't get a hand on the ball.

Down a goal, Germany used short, crisp passing to work the ball up field, while the Canadians relied on long passes. Meinert's passes frustrated an outclassed Canadian defense that was making its first start as a unit.

Germany tied the game on Bettina Wiegmann's penalty kick in the 39th minute. Wiegmann drove a low shot just inside the right post that froze LeBlanc.

Just before the goal, LeBlanc pushed a long shot by Ariane Hingst off the right post. Hingst then pushed away Prinz's attempt to put back the rebound but Canada's Charmaine Hooper was called for a handball in the box. A minute after the goal Prinz had a breakaway shot that LeBlanc pushed just wide of the right post.

Germany's Kerstin Garefrekes added a goal from 18 yards out in stoppage time.

JAPAN 6, ARGENTINA 0: At Columbus, Ohio, Mio Otani scored three goals over a span of 11 minutes and Homare Sawa added two goals and an assist as Japan routed Argentina 6-0 Saturday night in the World Cup.

Emi Yamamoto added a goal and an assist as the Japanese moved to the top of Group C ahead of Germany, which beat Canada 4-1 in the earlier match.

Otani became the first player of the tournament to get a hat-trick with a goal in the 81st minute off a diving header from 10 yards out on a cross by Sawa. She also had goals in the 72nd and 75th minutes.

Sawa scored her second goal in the 39th minute on an aerial shot with the outside of her right foot. Yamamoto beat a defender down the left side and sent a cross to Sawa who volleyed a shot past the outstretched fingers of diving goalkeeper Romina Ferro.

Sawa opened the scoring in the 13th minute when she chested down a cross from Yayoi Kobayashi in front of the goal and hit a low shot past Ferro's right side. Sawa has scored 50 goals in 80 international games.

NORTH KOREA 3, NIGERIA 0: At Philadelphia, North Korea overcame poor shooting to beat Nigeria 3-0 Saturday in the opening doubleheader of the World Cup.

The North Koreans moved to the top of Group A, pending Sunday's game between the United States and Sweden.

Jin Pyol Hui scored in the 13th minute and set up a goal by Ri Un Gyong in the 74th for North Korea before completing the scoring with two minutes remaining.

North Korea's quick-passing game provided dozens of openings, but the players couldn't finish. Even when free from close range, the North Koreans — ranked seventh in the world — failed to find the net.

Only Jin's right-footed shot after a poor tackling attempt by Nigeria went in during the first half.

Nigeria, vastly outplayed in the opening 45 minutes, began the second half strong and twice nearly tied the score. But, like their opponent, the Nigerians' shots were inaccurate.

Huge gaps in the Nigerian defense — always a problem for the Africans — reappeared midway in the second half. At one point, Jin had a breakaway, but goalkeeper Precious Dede slid out to foil her.

Jin stole the ball from Kikelomo Ajayi and passed to Ri, who was left alone, for the second score. Ho Sun Hui's steal led to Jin's second goal on a rebound. In all, the North Koreans had 20 shots, many from close range, to Nigeria's nine. The North Koreans' speed also forced the Africans to foul, and Nigeria committed 22 in all, 18 in the first half.

The attendance was announced at 24,347.

NORWAY 2, FRANCE 0: At Philadelphia, Norway shook loose of stubborn France in the second half Saturday on goals by Anita Rapp and Dagny Mellgren in a 2-0 victory to open the Women's World Cup.

After a tentative start, the underdog French pressured Norway late in the scoreless first half, forcing goalkeeper Bente Nordby to make two difficult saves. Nordby dived to stop a twisting 20-yard shot by Elodie Woock for her best save.

At the other end, France's Celine Marty was spectacular. As Norway pressed the attack, Marty had to soar to punch a header by Solveig Gulbrandsen over the crossbar. While on the ground, Marty also made a hand save on Rapp's header and was fortunate when Rapp's floater hit off the far post.

Norway finally solved Marty just two minutes into the second half. Brit Sandaune's free kick from 25 yards was headed home by Rapp.

France responded with several threats, including Marinette Pichon's scissor kick that barely went wide. Pichon, France's best player, was quiet earlier in the game, but began finding open space.

Nordby sprawled in the 63rd to thwart her again, and Pichon was shoved away from the rebound by the defense.