It’s Rio Grande for Neid Finale

By Kieran Theivam

SILVIA NEID signed off from 11 years as head coach of Germany with Olympic Gold as her side overcame a spirited Sweden side 2-1 at the Maracanã Stadium on Friday.

Neid, who will hand over the reins to German legend Steffi Jones having held the position since 2005, now has a full collection of accolades with the Olympic triumph adding to two European Championship titles (2009, 2013) and a World Cup (2007).

The win came courtesy of a wonderfully struck effort from playmaker, Dzsenifer Marozsan, and an unfortunate own goal from Sweden defender, Linda Sembrant. Sub Stina Blackstenius made it a nervy last 25 minutes for the Germans after pulling one back for the Swedes.

This was the first all European final at an Olympic Games, and the first time both teams had made the final, with Germany winning a bronze in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Sweden came into the game, somewhat, as the pantomime villains, having defended resolutely in the previous two rounds to knockout 2012 gold medalists USA and hosts Brazil, both on penalties. A tactic heavily criticised by some.

But two lots of 120 minutes was clearly on the mind of the Swedes as they started the brighter in Rio at a much higher tempo than we had previously seen, with forward Olivia Schough firing wide from close range inside 15 minutes, when she should have at least hit the target.

Germany started to impose themselves as the half went on, and after a header over the bar from Melanie Leupolz, striker Anja Mittag followed by missing an absolute sitter from close range after keeper Hedvig Lindahl had spilled an effort from full-back, Leonie Maier.

Playmaker Marozsan, shortlisted for this year’s UEFA Best Player in Europe Award (winner announced Thursday), had been almost anonymous throughout the tournament.

But it was she that broke the deadlock after half time with a beautifully clipped effort from the edge of the box into the top corner, scoring her first goal in the competition, and leaving Lindahl with no chance.

Marozsan was instrumental in her side going 2-0 up just after the hour mark, as her free-kick from the edge of the box hit the post, with Linda Sembrant unfortunate to deflect the rebound into her own net.

Stina Blackstenius responded almost immediately for the Swedes, but they could not find the crucial leveller, despite heavy periods of pressure up until the final whistle. As a result, the Germans held out for their first Olympic gold medal.

Outgoing coach Neid described the win as “the icing on the cake,” and added that the fact Germany had won their first gold medal “tops everything.”

In the bronze medal match in Sao Paolo, Canada overcame hosts Brazil 2-1 thanks to goals from 17-year-old Deanne Rose, and veteran striker Christine Sinclair – who scored on her 250th international appearance.

A goal 11 minutes from time from forward Beatriz was not enough to prevent the hosts coming away without a medal, with Canada repeating their bronze medal performance of four years ago in London.

*This article originally featured in The FLP on August 21st.

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