Silvia Neid analyses the four semi-finalists
Japan are favourites for the title
"Women’s football isn’t all about success"
Germany’s success in women’s football is synonymous with one name in particular – that of Silvia Neid. Her biography reads like a seemingly endless succession of triumphs, as she was involved in each of her country’s eight UEFA Women’s EURO and two FIFA Women’s World Cup titles either as a player, as assistant coach alongside Tina Theune, or as head coach.
Neid called time on her coaching career after steering Germany to Olympic gold in 2016 and became head of trend scouting for women’s and girls’ football at the German Football Association (DFB). FIFA.com caught up with The Best FIFA Women's Coach 2016 at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France for her analysis of the four semi-finalists.
FIFA.com: How would you describe the individual strengths of the top four teams? Silvia Neid: We’ve already seen that England are quick and can switch the play extremely quickly up front. The pace of their attacking players is what sets them apart.
Spain and Japan’s clear strength is their technique. Every player is exceptionally well trained. They have great ball control, they’re creative going forward, and their ability to identify gaps means they can beat the first and second lines of defence in an instant. They’re also very flexible in attack.
What about the hosts? I watched France’s last match live in the stadium, and what struck me is that they try to stay relatively compact. However, they don’t have the quality of the other teams. I think Japan and Spain will make it to the final.
Who are your favourites for the title? The way the Japanese played [against Germany] makes them my favourites. They have so much energy and creativity. They try to give themselves a numerical advantage down the wings and are flexible about occupying space. They look a little more complete than Spain.
Have you identified any new trends? It’s striking that all of the teams play out from a back four. Over the last year, there was still a sense that some sides occasionally played with five at the back, but 4-3-3 is now very popular. Generally speaking, the U-20 national teams already play like their senior counterparts. Every association has a common thread and its own footballing philosophy.
After spending many years in the dugout, do you find you watch matches differently as a trend scout? As a coach, you’re always focused on your own team. Whenever I looked at our next opponents during a tournament, I immediately began thinking about how we could play against them. As a trend scout, I look at things a little differently. For example, I notice that a team presses the ball in midfield before transitioning into attack and look at how and why they do that. I also tend to look at whether that’s something other sides have already done or if it’s unique to that team. If it’s the latter, it isn’t a trend (laughs).
What were Germany lacking against Japan? Japan were by far the better team. Germany weren’t as creative in attack and they lacked the dynamism to win those vital one-on-one battles. Having said that, the key factor for youth teams is the number of players that have already made it into the senior side. I think there are one or two in Germany’s case. Maren Meinert’s aim is always to encourage as many players as possible. While youth football isn’t all about success, it’s obviously great to win things too.