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2019 Women's World Cup

Rivalry renewed: Germany vs. Sweden at the World Cup

RENNES, France — It’s a rivalry renewed with a spot in the Women’s World Cup semifinals on the line with Germany against Sweden at Roazhon Park on Saturday night. The last quarterfinal final match will be a familiar affair for two teams that have a storied history.

Germany that took home gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics after a 2-1 win over Sweden. The two countries have met 28 times with Germany holding a 20-7-1 record. Sweden have not defeated Germany in a top competition in 24 years.

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Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and her squad have quietly flown under the radar with a 4-0-0 record, and the top defense in the tournament. Germany has yet to allow a goal. Goalkeeper Almuth Schult has been a wall with a tournament-leading four clean sheets.

“On the one had, we have a really strong mentality,” Schult explained to The Equalizer. “We try to stop every shot. It’s not only me; it’s the whole team that tries to get something from the body, in the shots. On the other side, in some situations, we were lucky. If you think about the shot from Spain that hits the post. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s just the mentality. I hope we can go through with this and have a clean sheet after this game against Sweden, because it will bring us to the next round.”

Much of the focus heading into the match is the status of Germany’s playmaker, Dzsenifer Marozsan. The 27-year-old has missed the previous three Germany matches with a broken toe following the team’s opening 1-0 win over China. Marozsan was a full participant in Germany’s practice on Thursday and Friday and is expected to play against Sweden.

The addition of Marozsan will certainly help Germany, but even if she is not at full strength, Germany will be just fine. They’re ranked No. 2 for a reason. Marozsan will provide a boost, but it’s not necessarily a huge loss if she isn’t able to go a full 90.

“No, I don’t think our game in general will change much,” Marina Hegering explained “She can make a difference, but I wouldn’t say our game is completely orientated around her. Our game will not change a lot with her. We don’t want to depend on her.”

Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson was keeping his cards close at hand while breaking down the challenge Sweden faces if Marozsan is able to play. Sweden’s defense will have to contend with another dangerous German that single handily could win the match.

“You have to look at the quality of the team,” Gerhardsson explained to reporters. “When it comes to Maro, we know her style of play, but you can’t create a plan exclusively. Sometimes we have a little bit too much focus on them. If Maro is playing, we have a plan for that.”

That plan might include Nilla Fischer shutting down the Lyon star. Fischer has a resume consistent of defending the top players in the game. Canada’s Christine Sinclair had a quiet game in the round of 16, for example.

The 28-year-old Schult has fond memories of playing with Fischer during their six years with VfL Wolfsburg. Now that they’re opponents at the World Cup, the banter has picked up.

“Yeah, we had some contact, that’s right,” Schult revealed. “I think this tournament we had more contact than at other tournaments before. We know it’s something special after this long time at Wolfsburg. Hopefully I have a clean sheet after this game, so they will not score. It’s difficult, they have really good players in headers. They play really good corners, maybe I will meet directly with her [Fischer]. I hope that I’m the winner in this one on one. She’s one of the best defenders in the world.”

As we saw with Sweden against Canada, this could also be a low-scoring duel. Sweden and Germany both have a strong defensive presence. Germany does offer more up front, but it would not be a shock to see extra time or penalties on the horizon in Rennes.

“Germany is ranked second in the world. They’re very strong. It’s in the details. More or less like Canada, but better offensive qualities than Canada.” Gerhardsson explained.

The battle between Schult and her counterpart Hedvig Lindahl is something to watch for.

“Yeah, she had an amazing save of this penalty,” Schult recalled of Lindahl denying Canada’s Janine Beckie. “That was the strongest penalty stop that I saw in this tournament. She can decide this game, of course. She’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. She showed it in a lot of tournaments before, and a lot of games. We will see what happens. I think that we also have a strong defense. I hope that we can score against her.”

Germany did exactly that in a friendly match at Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden, on April 6. Lindahl was beaten twice as the visitors took a 2-1 win over Sweden.

“She’s not unstoppable,” Schult added.

If Sweden wants to make history, they’re going to have to beat the powerhouse that is Germany.

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