At around 7 p.m. EDT on Friday evening, Silvia Neid will be leaving the field as Germany head coach for the last time, with a proverbial medal around her neck (coaches do not receive Olympic medals). The color will be dependent on whether her side, competing in their first Olympic final despite numerous accolades over the years, can overcome a resilient, dogged and organized Sweden side.
The tactical battle on the sideline between Neid and counterpart Pia Sundhage should be just as fascinating as what’s going on on the field. But ultimately, it’s the players who will decide their fate. For Germany, Brazil 2016 has been a strange affair with lots of questions about the team’s ability to medal at these Games.
The group stages were indifferent, and the quarterfinal with China not much better. But as you expect from any Germany team, efficiency is always there, and the result against Canada highlighted that.
Key to the game against Sweden will be two things – movement of the forward players to try and stretch Sweden’s defense, and the role of Dzsenifer Marozsan playing between the lines to try and carve open their stubborn resistance. Brazil and USA struggled to exert themselves or create in between Sweden’s two banks of four, which at times, was a bank of four and five in midfield when the opposition had the ball. In addition, Germany needs to be conscious of the weaknesses within their own back four, who at times, have looked vulnerable.
Sweden haven’t offered much going forward in the last few games, but they have shown glimpses of being dangerous on the counter, with Stina Blackstenius particularly difficult to deal with, along with Lotta Schelin. Australia horribly exposed the frailties of the German backline, but in fairness, Neid’s side hasn’t conceded since. They’ll need to be organized once again should the Swedes utilize the counter on where possible.
Question marks still remain over Marozsan, who is yet to come to life in this tournament, and if she is to justify her tag as one of the best in the world, now is the time to show it.
Melanie Behringer has been the driving force of this team and her five goals have her in pole position to win the golden boot. If Germany wins a gold medal, you can almost guarantee she’ll get Player of the Tournament as well. While Marozsan and Behringer are key, Neid is the biggest factor. Not just for her influence on the game from a tactical side, but what effect it will have on her players emotionally.
Having been at the helm since 2005, emotions will no doubt be running high among her players. She’s won almost everything, and the only thing missing is Olympic gold. Oh how this team would like to give her the perfect send off by completing the collection. We saw how Lyon responded in the UEFA Women’s Champions League this year to Louisa Cadamuro (nee Necib), Lotta Schelin and Amandine Henry leaving the club, with emotions high, but a winner’s medal around their necks in the end.
But this German team is full of experience, full of know-how, and full of winners. An Olympic title is the only accolade that eludes them having won two World Cups and eight European Championships, and what a time it is to add that to their honors list, with Neid about to leave her post.
Sweden will make it difficult, and it might not be pretty. But Germany is a team to be feared for sure. And much like USA at the World Cup last year, they’re getting better with each game, which could mean it’s their time.
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