Last year they were crowned world champions. Now the German women's national team have their sights set on the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Greece. But in Nigeria they face a tricky quarter-final opponent.
The FIFA Women's World Cup winners were impressive in both of their group games. After an 8-0 demolition of China, Birgit Prinz and her team mates swept aside Mexico in a 2-0 victory. Their third scalp could well be Nigeria in the last eight.
One player with a perfect record in both of Germany's games so far is goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg. "It would be fantastic to win a medal for your country," the 32-year-old told FIFA.com. The German international is a veteran of the world champions' team, having held the number one jersey for eleven years and won a number of titles. Rottenberg has even already tasted Olympic success, winning the bronze medal in Sydney four years ago. However, the shotstopper still craves that Olympic gold and is confident that this is the year. "I have a good feeling. I have extraordinary faith in this team," she says. "I have told them we will be Olympic champions."
But the quarter-final fixture looks to be a taller task. "The Nigerians are incredibly light on their feet and are always capable of producing the unexpected. We will have to be on our mettle."
Germany have met Nigeria on three previous occasions, winning all three encounters. The two teams last met before the Olympics in a friendly in Offenbach which ended 3-1. However, Rottenberg insists that the Nigerians should not be under-estimated. "This is the quarter-finals. We can't afford any mishaps. We will have to give everything for the whole 90 minutes. Nigeria are no easy opponents. We beat them 3-1 at home but it was a close game. They are not to be taken lightly."
The world champions have played ten games this year, losing just twice: A 1-0 defeat to China at the beginning of the year and a 1-0 loss against reigning Olympic champions Norway in the summer. However, Germany's women are well equipped for the forthcoming quarter-final. "We are a good team. We have a good cohesion and an ideal blend of youth and experience. I think we can exceed ourselves with this team," the goalkeeper predicts.
And her confidence is justified. In Birgit Prinz, Germany have one of the world's great players in their ranks. The FIFA World Footballer of the Year has accounted for half of Germany's goal tally and is the current top scorer of the tournament with five goals. The German striker is also the highest scorer of all time at the Olympics with nine goals to her name.
Nigeria singing and praying
And what of Nigeria? After winning their opening game against Japan, they were on their way to a second victory and top spot in the group against Sweden when they were stunned by two second half goals. Now they come up against the world champions. "We will give our best to win our next game," assures Nigerian coach Ismaila Mabo.
The African champions are desperate to achieve something to make amends for their ignominious FIFA Women's World Cup campaign last year when they finished bottom of their group without a point. "We didn't come here on holiday - expectations at home are very high. We want to win and are well placed to shock somebody at some stage," says the national coach. In the Sweden clash, the coach withdrew his most dangerous player Mercy Akide from the action after 70 minutes. "That was a precautionary measure. I wanted to save her for the quarter-finals because she has been struggling with an injury."
Silke Rottenberg is respectful of the pacy striker. "Mercy Akide is a very good player," the goalkeeper admits. The Nigerians have incredibly strong players in their team who are also very fast. Their team is full of talented individuals." The German shotstopper believes there is only one way to approach Nigeria: "We have to try to keep tight on them and not allow them any space."
The African team's training session on Thursday was a little unconventional. It began with a long speech from the coach to prepare his players for the forthcoming match. What then followed left onlookers stunned. A mixture of prayer and singing emanated from the Nigerian dressing room as the African players appealed for God's support in the clash against the world champions.
In the German camp, normality reigned. Coach Tina Theune-Meyer is working meticulously with her team, preparing them painstakingly for the challenge ahead. "Our strong point is that we are remarkably fit," says Rottenberg. On Friday, the world champions hope to lay the foundations for a successful final leg of their Olympic adventure. And Rottenberg is already looking ahead: "The medal is relatively close. If you win just one more game, you are playing for bronze."