Neid: Gap has closed at top

There was a subdued atmosphere in the bowels of the Shanghai-Hongkou Football Stadium on Friday evening. Germany and England had just shared the points after a 0-0 draw in their second Group A match at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 - the second time that Hope Powell's side had held the world champions to a goalless draw this year. So was this a good result for Germany or an opportunity missed?

One glance at the German players' faces was enough to see clearly their disappointment at having failed to follow up their record 11-0 win against Argentina with another three points. If their rivals could have been forgiven a sense of relief that the German women had dropped a couple of points and might not have it all their own way in China, coach Silvia Neid and her charges made no attempt to hide their mixed feelings nor their determination to retain their title.

"Today's match is a perfect illustration of how the gap has closed a lot between teams at the top. I've been saying that for a while now, and now I feel justified," said the 43-year-old Neid, who in the course of her 111 internationals as a player was on the winning side against England on each of the six occasions they met. "You can't just expect us to thrash all of the teams we play here in China," she added with a smile, as if to remind us that the Germans are human after all.

Neid 'satisfied'
It is easy to come around to Neid's way of thinking after her team "failed" to put on another gala performance. She is an experienced coach, and knows that a minor setback at an early stage of a FIFA World Cup can often create extra motivation. "I'm satisfied. We didn't given them any chances and we're still right in this tournament. Now we're looking forward to Monday since the match against Japan is a decisive one. If we give them too much space, then they will hurt us," said Neid, intuitively moving on and focusing on the next game. Cross off the matches one by one and raise your game for the next one; efficiency is very much the watch-word for the German women's team.

Birgit Prinz was a lot less satisfied, however. The 29-year-old striker missed a good chance to secure victory towards the end of the match but saw her shot blocked by England goalkeeper Rachel Brown. After the final whistle, she made it clear that it was a case of two points dropped rather than one gained. When asked whether this goalless draw would put some fire in the bellies of the German players, she replied: "I really don't think that it's a good thing to have lost our impetus like that. I wanted to win today."

Prinz is one of the world's best attackers and was visibly dissatisfied with the lack of chances that she and her team-mates managed to create against England. "Our opponents today were very solid in defence, no question. And since we weren't at our most creative, we'll have to make do with a point," said Prinz, who will hope to take out her frustrations on the Japan defence on Monday.

'Still on course'
It was Kerstin Garefrekes who came nearest to breaking the deadlock, her lightning-quick surges down right prompting some nervy moments in the England defence. The 28-year-old popped up all over the pitch, but was a lot more reserved in the interview room. "I'm annoyed that we didn't win, but the setback doesn't come as a shock for us. It's still all in our own hands, so we're still on course," she told

For his part, Dr Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Association, was his usual relaxed self and felt that his earlier predictions were now justified. "I always said that now was the time that the tournament would really get under way. I expect us to beat Japan and come top of the group," he said, before pausing for a moment and then saying exactly what everyone in the German camp was really thinking. "I will admit that I would have preferred to have beaten England though."