When you only score once despite spending 90 minutes pressing your opponents back towards their own goal, it speaks volumes for the latter's defensive resilience and the effort required to emerge victorious. That is precisely what Anja Mittag experienced in Germany’s 1-0 quarter-final win over China.
“That’s a good way of putting it, yeah,” the 31-year-old said in an interview with FIFA.com after the match. “We worked hard for our win and really earned our place in the semi-finals. We battled fiercely and did it for each other.”
Melanie Behringer came to her country’s rescue in the 77th minute, collecting the ball 20 metres out from goal before hammering it into the top corner. Mittag was unsurprisingly full of praise for the Bayern Munich midfielder, who delivered another formidable performance to take her scoring tally at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 to four.
“She’s had her ups and downs in the national team but has rediscovered her strengths and self-belief,” she said. “It’s important to have her in the team. She’s a leader and has already scored four goals, more than us strikers. She does her job very well.”
Yet despite Behringer’s blistering strike, Germany were far from home and dry, and China’s best chance of an equaliser came when they were awarded a penalty just minutes before the final whistle. Mittag could feel the tension as Wang Shuang stepped up to take the spot-kick. “My heart practically stopped,” the 2008 bronze medallist said, “even though I knew what Almuth can do and believed in her. We were lucky at that moment. I think luck was on our side tonight, and somehow things worked out for us.”
USA were not so fortunate in their penalty shoot-out against Sweden as two of their players failed to score. Alex Morgan’s shot was saved before Christen Press fired her effort over the crossbar to help seal the Stars and Stripes’ fate.
“We were following the match between Sweden and the USA on the bus journey here,” the Paris Saint-Germain striker said. “Of course we were surprised to see the defending champions go out so early. What does early mean? For them, the quarter-finals. Having said that, it’s great that other teams are able to beat the Americans. That’s how it should be too – you can’t have one side winning everything all the time.”
Germany will be hoping to continue their journey beyond the semi-finals and bid farewell to coach Silvia Neid with another title. Their last-four encounter will be a repeat of their final group match after Canada defeated France 1-0. When asked if this provided an opportunity for revenge, Mittag replied: “You could certainly see it that way, but it doesn’t matter to us. All we want now is to beat every opponent and take home gold.”