Heartbreak for Sweden as Germany claim Bronze (1:0)
In an emotional re-run of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup Final at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens on Thursday, Germany overcame Sweden 1-0 to claim the Bronze medal in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. Midfielder Renate Lingor struck the winner from close range on 17 minutes from a Conny Pohlers lay-off, but the Germans needed a string of courageous saves from keeper Silke Rottenberg, honoured beforehand on her 100th international appearance by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and DFB President Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, to cling on to the narrowest of victories.
Reigning world champions Germany win Bronze then, just as they did four years ago in Sydney, but defeat was a devastating blow for FIFA Women's World Cup runners-up Sweden, who leave the Games empty-handed yet again.
The fireworks started after just 39 seconds as Victoria Svensson blasted narrowly over Rottenberg's goal from 18 metres, and the German response was immediate as Petra Wimbersky burst down the flank and delivered a precise cross for Conny Pohlers to flick on, only for captain Birgit Prinz's drive to shave the outside of the Swedish post.
The game continued at a furious pace, Jane Törnqvist heading the next glorious opportunity narrowly over the bar from nine metres after Kristin Bengtsson's 14th minute corner.
|Germany hold strong to take bronze|
Just two minutes later, Prinz drifted to the touchline and crossed but midfielder Viola Odebrecht squandered a golden opportunity to double the advantage as she screwed wide from 15 metres.
Both teams now threw caution to the wind in a game of increasing entertainment value. The Swedes briefly gained the upper hand but Hanna Ljungberg found Rottenberg in sparkling form as the keeper first beat away a five-metre header and then smothered the striker's first-time effort. The German netminder then thwarted Östberg before her opposite number Joensson raced out to clear from the onrushing Prinz.
The match was an attacking treat for the crowd as the sides continued to pile forward. Kerstin Garefrekes hared down the right wing on 37 minutes and found Pohlers lurking in the centre, but Joensson pushed the striker's header onto the underside of the bar and gratefully gathered up the rebound.
The action continued into the second period, Prinz missing the target from five metres following Wimbersky's right-wing cross. Not surprisingly, the pace then dropped and although the Scandinavians had the better of the possession they were unable to create clear-cut chances.
The Germans chose to wait for counter-attacking opportunities, but their opponents threatened again just short of the hour as Ljungberg directed a fine volley at Rottenberg who showed sharp reflexes to save. A minute later, Malin Andersson swung over a dangerous cross which evaded the German defence only for Linda Fagerstöm to poke over from 13 metres. Andersson's 25-metre free-kick a few moments later had Rottenberg struggling but the centurion scrambled the effort to safety.
With time running out, the Swedes were forced to leave gaps at the back and on 86 minutes Prinz broke free down the left, finding Pohlers in the centre only for the striker to decline the opportunity. The Scandinavians laid siege to the German goal but the world champions' rearguard held firm and Prinz's team clung on for the bronze medal.
Germany coach Tina Theune-Meyer was understandably delighted afterwards: "We've pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps after losing to the USA. We've shown fighting qualities today as well as decent football. It was a good, exciting match with plenty of end-to-end stuff and there could easily have been more goals." The boss found special words of praise for her goalkeeper: "Silke Rottenberg provided a strong last line of defence today. She was determined to keep everything out."
Sweden coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors was disappointed with her side's first half display: "We were much better going forward in the second half, but far too passive before the interval," she lamented. "The best women's fixtures are getting better and better, and it's getting more and more difficult at the top of the world game."