It is difficult to imagine a better end to the day than reaching your first Women’s Olympic Football Tournament final in the same match that you win your 100th international cap. Yet that is exactly what happened to Germany’s Saskia Bartusiak at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday evening. After Germany defeated Canada 2-0, she could scarcely believe her luck as she celebrated the historic success with her team-mates. Surely there is no better way to mark your 100th appearance for the national team?
“Definitely! I’ve already been asked about it many times,” said a beaming Bartusiak in an interview with FIFA.com. “The fact that this match coincided with my 100th cap is just a great coincidence, of course, but I’m so excited that we’ve reached the final. I doubt I’ll ever forget this game.”
Having inherited the captain’s armband in September 2015 following Nadine Angerer’s international retirement, the 33-year-old has now led her team to the final in her first major tournament as skipper, despite a shaky start to the campaign. Bartusiak and Co were defeated by their eventual semi-final opponents in their last group game, having remained unbeaten in 12 previous encounters with the North American side. After finishing second in Group F to progress to the knockout stages, Germany have looked an entirely different team.
“We’ve become closer as a squad,” the Frankfurt centre-back explained. “Although we had a bit of a bumpy ride in the group stages, we kept believing in ourselves and addressed a few things. We always knew what we had in us and what we were capable of, and we’ve shown that much better in the knockout phase.”
Sweet home HorizonteWhile Germany followed their narrow 1-0 quarter-final defeat of China PR with a rather more dominant display against the Big Red, their latest match was anything but straightforward.
“Canada are just a very good team,” said Bartusiak. “They’re always dangerous. We simply countered that threat and tried to summon all our strength. It’s a tough tournament and today’s game was no exception. You’ve just got to praise every single member of the team. Everyone gave it their all, and that’s how we managed to win.”
The result means Germany’s women continue to build on the success of their male counterparts. The setting for Tuesday’s victory was none other than the legendary Estadio Mineirao, which seems to have become something of a happy hunting ground for the country’s football teams over the last couple of years.
“We were also asked about this before the match, as the men won 7-1 here [against Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup] and the U-21s also played really well here [beating Fiji 10-0 in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament – editor’s note]. We took that as a good omen and managed to continue that success.”
Just like the men two years ago, Germany’s women are now off to Rio, where they will face Sweden in the final showdown at the Maracana on Friday. Yet for now at least, their skipper remains unconcerned about how their opponents will perform and what tactics they might use.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Bartusiak said. “Right now we’re just delighted to have become the first Germany women’s national team to reach an Olympic final – it all still feels a little surreal. First we need to let everything sink in and really understand what we achieved today. After that, bring it on. We’re going to Rio; we’re playing at the Maracana!”