VALENCIENNES, France -- Make that two wins in two tries for Germany in this year's World Cup, but once again, the team's performance was hardly convincing against a solid Spain team. The Germans were without their star playmaker, Dzsenifer Marozsán, for the first time since her toe injury last week against China. As it did against the Chinese, Germany played a bit by the scruff of the neck, winning 1-0. Spain might have regrets, though the squad put out a great performance and in some respects deserved to win. The team was just not clinical enough. Here's what we learned Wednesday:
No Marozsán, no problems for now
Life without Marozsán started Wednesday for the Germans. You can't replace one of the best players in the world just like that. Without their superstar, their playmaker, their leader, they had to adapt. They played in a different system, going from a 4-5-2 against China (1-0) to a 4-4-2 against Spain with Alexandra Popp and Svenja Huth up front in the first half, Popp and Klara Buehl (who could have scored twice) in the second and Huth moving to the right. The Germans lost a lot of creativity and instead played with more intensity and power. It worked this time, but Germany will have to improve for the later stages of the competition.
A clinical Germany
It was not a vintage performance from the Germans. Like against China in the opening game of the World Cup, they were not the better side. But on Wednesday, they weathered the storm. The torrential rain first, just after kickoff, and the Spain attacks after that. On their first real chance, they scored. Sara Däbritz took advantage of a misunderstanding between Sandra Panos in goal and her right back Marta Torrejon and pushed the ball over the line in the 42nd minute. The 2007 World Champions exploited the one mistake Spain made in the first 45 minutes of the game. However, they will have to use Popp better than what they did Wednesday. The German captain was involved in the lone goal but could bring so much more.
An attractive Spain
For most of the game, Jorge Vilda's team was the best on the pitch. Their passing and moving, a la Barcelona, were lovely to watch. The Catalan club is obviously a huge influence on this team, with five starters from there and 10 players out of 23 in the squad too. They had the best chances, especially Nahikari Garcia, but did not capitalize on them. If the Spaniards want to compete with the likes of Germany, France or the U.S. and win big titles, they need a goal scorer who will take advantage of the chances they create. Lucia Garcia, Nahikari Garcia and Mariona have great potential, but they are only 20, 22 and 23, and Jennifer Hermoso can't do everything on her own and is more of a playmaker than an in-and-out striker.
Jenni is class
Speaking of Hermoso, she was magnificent Wednesday. She is a world-class player with world-class touches. She got a few "ooohs" from the Stade du Hainaut every time she showed off her left-footed skills, which was often. She is elegant and beautiful to watch, and once again, she was her team's biggest creative inspiration. Her ball through put Garcia one on one with Almuth Schult, and had her teammate scored, it would have changed the dynamic of the game. The Atletico Madrid star would have deserved the player of the match award, which was instead given to the only goal scorer of the match.
A good shout for best game of the tournament so far
From the first minute to pretty much the last, this game was played with a lot of intensity. These two teams play two different styles -- the power and physicality of the Germans and the technical short passes of the Spaniards -- but everything was done with commitment and energy. There was high pressing, movement off the ball and a lot of running. Despite only one goal being scored, it was probably the best game of the tournament so far in terms of both level and individual performances.