BERLIN — Germany made a grand start to the Women's World Cup.
The host country defeated Canada 2-1 before a capacity crowd of 73,680 at Olympic Stadium on Sunday after an opening ceremony watched by dignitaries and filled with pageantry.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, German President Christian Wulff and FIFA President Sepp Blatter were among those on hand for the official start of the three-week tournament.
During part of the opening ceremony, a globe positioned in the center of the field was "peeled" away to reveal a mirror ball reflecting fans in a festive mood. Hundreds of helium balloons that resembled soccer balls were then released to the sky.
Kerstin Garefrekes and Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi each scored to give the German fans reason to cheer, but Canada made it tight on Christine Sinclair's free kick in the 82nd minute.
"The fans were great," Germany Coach Silvia Neid said. "People had the feeling it could be getting close and they really got behind us. I thought it was a brilliant reaction."
Sinclair played most of the second half with a broken nose for Canada.
"The doctors told me her nose was broken, but she asked me to let her play," Canada Coach Carolina Morace said. "I asked if it would be dangerous, but Christine is a smart player — she knows what she can do and what she can't do."
Germany attacked from the start of the Group A game, posing trouble for the Canadian defense.
Sinclair nearly scored for Canada in the sixth, but she fired over the bar with only Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer to beat. At the other end, Erin McLeod couldn't stop Garefrekes in the 10th minute when the midfielder rose to meet Babett Peter's deep cross.
Okoyino Da Mbabi — who turns 23 on Monday — struck in the 42nd minute when she raced onto Garefrekes' through ball and picked her spot, giving McLeod no chance to make the save.
German reserve Alexandra Popp entered in the second half and grazed the crossbar with a long shot in the 65th minute. She nearly assisted on a goal a minute later, only for Garefrekes to hook the ball over the bar from close range.
Sinclair's free kick finally cracked the mighty German defense, but it wasn't enough.
"She's a fantastic player and she showed that again today," Morace said. "If she had scored the first chance we might have been talking about a different result, but I'm satisfied."
France 1, Nigeria 0: Marie-Laure Delie scored in the 56th minute at Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim, Germany, for a French team that went undefeated in qualifying. "We have three points in our pocket and no one can take them away from us," France Coach Bruno Bini said.
The French dominated most of the game, with playmaker Louisa Necib limiting many of her moves to midfield rather than pressuring Nigeria's defense upfield. She was honored as Player of the Match.
Nigeria is the perennial African champion and has reached all five women's World Cups. But all too often the team has failed to get out of the first round.