When hosts and holders Germany meet France in Monchengladbach on Tuesday evening, rounding off the Group A programme at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™, the prize at stake is top spot in the section, with the reward of theoretically easier opponents in the quarter-finals. In any event, it is certainly one of the biggest games at the tournament so far, with a number of German players billing the encounter as a meeting between equals. In terms of footballing quality, tactical nous and fighting spirit, the showdown promises 90 top-class minutes.
Both teams have maximum points from their two previous matches, and are already through to the knockout stages. However, the French have surprised many pundits with their dazzling form so far, and require only a draw to win the group due to their superior goal difference. That would appear to give the psychological edge to Les Bleues, who opened with a 1–0 victory over Nigeria, and then played some scintillating football to cruise past the Canadians 4–0. By contrast, the hosts appear some way off their best, despite beating Canada 2–1, and then the Africans by the only goal of the game.
Coach Silvia Neid and her staff are hoping for significant improvement against the on-song French, who will again look to their classy individuals for inspiration. For the Germans, Melanie Behringer is a doubt after turning an ankle against Nigeria, and rock-solid defender Linda Bresonik has been unable to train with a stomach bug. On the plus side, Martina Muller is fit again after shaking off a hamstring injury. France boss Bruno Bini will field a full-strength side.
9 - The sides have met nine times at full international level, with Germany winning seven and France two. The most recent meeting came at the UEFA Women's European Championship 2009 in Finland, the Germans running out 5–1 winners in the group stage.
"The game against France is very special for me, but I definitely won't have any sympathy at all if we take the three points on Tuesday!" Germany forward Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, who has a French mother and knows many France players personally.