German women’s football team out for elusive gold in Beijing

German women's football team out for elusive gold in Beijing
Photo: DPA
World Cup champions Germany will be searching for the one major football crown that has eluded them when the women’s football tournament opens the Beijing Olympic Games on Wednesday.

But coach Silvia Neid refrained from making any bold predictions when she selected a vastly experienced Games squad of 16 players all from the victorious team who defended the World Cup title in China last year. Along with perennial rivals and two-times Olympic champions the United States, she also singled out Brazil, Norway, Korea, Sweden and China as all strong contenders in the 12-team competition.

“At least I am convinced that we have a very strong team for the Olympics,” said Neid whose so-called “golden generation” of players include star defender Ariane Hingst, playmaker Renate Lingor and striker Birgit Prinz.

Football, which kicks off two days before the official Games opening because of its packed schedule, features the world’s top women players unlike the men’s competition which has an under-23 age restriction.

The German women have a packed trophy cabinet including the past two World Cups and four UEFA women’s championships, but they have only two bronze medals from the three Olympic Games where women’s football has been contested. At Olympic level, the United States have an impressive record, winning in 1996 and 2004 and being beaten by Norway by a sudden-death goal in the 2000 final.

They have also retained most of the squad who won the play-off for third in last year’s World Cup although notably they are without striker Abby Wambach who broke her leg in a pre-Olympics friendly with Brazil and pregnant captain Kristine Lilly.

The United States will enjoy a relatively easier pool than Germany, being grouped with Sydney Olympic champions Norway along with Japan and New Zealand. Germany will be tested in the “pool of death” with a first-up game against Brazil followed by North Korea and Africa champions Nigeria. Hosts China head the third pool which includes Argentina, Canada and Sweden. Asia’s traditional standard-bearers and silver medallists in Athens, completed their Olympic build-up with a 0-0 draw in a friendly with the United States.

Behind Germany and the United States, Brazil loom as a potent force led by outstanding striker Marta Vieira da Silva, the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

She was also the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner in last year’s World Cup where Brazil were beaten 0-2 by Germany in the final, following their 1-2 loss to the United States in the previous Olympic final.