Whenever Germany face USA in women's football, superlatives are always close at hand. 'Clash of the titans', 'Superpowers collide' and 'Fit for a final' are just some of the headlines which have been used to describe the clash, the latest incarnation of which is set to take place on Monday in the sides' final Group D fixture at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Japan 2012.
"Normally we only meet the USA in the knockout rounds," Germany coach Maren Meinert explained to FIFA.com. "This Monday's match will be the first time we've played them in the group stage. There is no greater, more exciting or prestigious duel than us against the USA, who have always set the benchmark at all age levels. Even at youth level, people are asking: 'Who can compete with the USA?'"
Meinert's words may seem surprising given her team went into the tournament as defending champions and have so far impressed as the only team yet to concede a goal, securing their place in the quarter-finals ahead of schedule thanks to wins against China PR and Ghana.
The United States, meanwhile, still require at least a point against the Germans to progress. "I said before the tournament started that I'd never seen such a good American team as the one at this U-20 World Cup," said Meinert. "In my opinion nothing has changed. They've already shown what a strong team they are."
Curiously, the two teams have already encountered one another in Japan – on flight NH2004 to Sendai. The squads boarded the same plane from Hiroshima, the venue for all their games so far, ahead of Monday's match at the Miyagi Stadium.
"I've never flown with another team before," laughed Germany striker Lena Lotzen. "It was really relaxed, though, and we didn't really come into contact. We know a few of the players from previous matches but there was nothing more than a couple of quick 'hellos'."
The teams' next 'get together' is unlikely to be quite as cordial. Although reigning champions Germany are already safely through to the next round, there is plenty riding on the match, not least the fact that the Germans can equal USA's record of ten straight victories at FIFA U-20 Women's World Cups with a win.
Furthermore, the 2010 winners will want to ensure they finish top of Group D to avoid a likely quarter-final clash with Korea DPR, who knocked them out at the same stage of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup two years ago. Back then, Germany scored 22 goals and conceded just one in the group stage, only to see their title hopes extinguished after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Asians.
Lotzen featured in all four matches at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, scoring four goals, and is eager to put things right at U-20 level. "Of course those memories resurface now and again, but ultimately we're here with a completely different team this time," she said. "Since the 1-0 win against Ghana, we know that sometimes we're going to have to be patient to score. It's good we've already got that experience now, though, rather than in the knockout stages."
Lotzen, who netted the opener in her side's 4-0 win against China PR, nonetheless holds no fear should Germany indeed come up against the North Koreans, regarding instead it as a chance to dispose of a potential title challenger: "If the opportunity was there, I'd love to knock them out of the tournament," she added with a smile.