CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Coach Silvia Neid hailed a “new summit for German women’s football” after seeing her team add the Olympic prize to their roll of honour by beating Sweden 2-1 in front of a packed Maracana.
The iconic venue is becoming something of a favourite home-from-home for Germany after the senior men’s side won here two years ago at the FIFA World Cup. The men’s Olympic team can complete a remarkable treble at the same venue against hosts Brazil.
Dzsenifer Maroszan was the star for Silvia Neid’s side. The 24-year-old from Olympique Lyonnais opened the scoring minutes into the second half. Then, just after the hour, she saw her free-kick hit the post and ricochet out only for luckless Swedish defender Lisa Sembrant to slice it back into the net.
Sweden pulled one back through substitute Stina Blackstenius – her second goal of the tournament – but Pia Sundhage’s side could not find any more, for all their effort.
Jessica Samuelsson missed her kick in a panic in front of an open goal shortly before the end but Germany held out and so the Swedes had to settle for a first silver.
German coach Silvia Neid, asked for her emotions after her last game as coach, said: “I don’t have the words to describe this properly. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a world championship or European title. This is what you’ve earned through your work over weeks and months.
“It’s a dream come true because I knew that this was what we had earned and worked so hard for – not only me and the players but but the whole troupe behind the scenes. When you finally reach your goal you have a feeling of pure joy for everybody and also for me as a trainer.
“Beyond all the other titles this is something completely new. To have the gold medal is a new summit for German women’s football.”
Sweden coach Sundhage knows both sides of the medal, having guided the United States to success in 2008 and 2012. But she insisted that her Swedish players needed to be positive about their achievement in these Games.
She said: “We were so close. After 93 minutes it was a bit of an empty feeling but then I said to the players that they needed to enjoy the silver medal because I believe we actually won the silver instead of losing the gold.
“I’m so proud because of the way we played against the best team in the world. Our start was very good. We thought we had more speed than the Germans so that was the game plan.
“But what separates the Germans from the others is the way they keep possession and penetrate on the flanks. If you try to stop them there then they find another way. They have some good players but when they are dispossessed they also know how to defend.”
Canada claimed the women’s bronze after beating Brazil 2-1 in Sao Paulo earlier in the day.
After a heartbreaking semi-final loss to Sweden on penalties on Tuesday, Marta and co were undone by goals from Deanne Rose and Canada captain Christine Sinclair in each half. Beatriz scored with 10 minutes remaining but it was too little too late for the hosts.
The Canadians, for whom Sinclair’s goal was a remarkable 165th in her 250th international, also struck the posts once in each half.
Victory meant Canada have won back to back bronze medals in the women’s football competition and goes some way to make up for their disappointing quarter-final exit on home soil a year ago in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
For the hosts the match marked a last outing for star players Cristiane, Formiga and captain Marta. All had previously stated a desire to retire after the Games.