After a slow start and a slew of wasted chances, Germany looked as if it might need a sure thing to avoid being upset by Italy on Sunday at the Rose Bowl.
A penalty kick by Bettina Wiegmann, a veteran of three World Cups, filled the bill.
Germany managed a 1-1 tie in its opening match of the Women's World Cup in front of a crowd of 17,102 after Wiegmann put the ball past goalkeeper Giorgia Brenzan just inside the right post on a penalty kick in the 61st minute.
Germany was awarded the kick after Italy's Roberta Stefanelli fouled Birgit Prinz in the box.
"We went into the game only to win. At the end of it all, I can live with one point," said German Coach Tina Theune-Meyer, whose team is attempting to return to the championship game after losing to Norway in 1995.
"One thing we were very unhappy with was our finishing. We kept getting position, but we were not putting it away."
Italy, less experienced internationally than Germany, picked up a valuable point in Group B play with the tie, and might have pulled an upset had the Germans not picked up their play considerably in the second half.
"The first half, I believed Italy could win," said the Italians' rising star, Patrizia Panico, whose goal in the 36th minute gave Italy a 1-0 lead.
Panico scored on a header off a cross from Italian captain Antonella Carta, beating German goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg to the near post.
The offensive chances generated by the play of Italy's Panico and Rita Guarino in the first half gave way to a defensive game plan in the second, and Germany finally showed some life.
"In the second half, the German team pushed us," Panico said. "They are very strong, physically. Yes, we were tired. They are more strong physically than the Italian team."
Italian Coach Carlo Facchin said his team "demonstrated certain limits in our game" in the second half.
"We appeared to have some fear, some doubts," he said. "We didn't express ourselves the same way. Therefore we succumbed to their pressure.
"The end result, I'm very satisfied. This was one point against Germany. This wasn't against Mexico."
Mexico lost to Brazil, 7-1, in its opener.
Italy, in effect, stayed alive in its quest to be one of the two teams to advance from the group, though Germany and Brazil are favored.
Panico, who broke an Italian League record with 51 goals last season and is hailed as the heir to retired Italian star Carolina Morace, called her World Cup goal her most important yet.
"Yes. But it's not the importance of the goal itself," she said. "It's the point."