Germany’s women celebrated a historic victory on Friday evening, winning Olympic gold for the first time in their history after leaving Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 with bronze medals. The final against Sweden also heralded the end of a remarkable era, as Silvia Neid oversaw her last match as national team coach.
The 52-year-old’s name is synonymous with German footballing success, and her biography reads like a seemingly endless succession of triumphs. She was involved in every single one of her country’s eight European titles and two FIFA Women’s World Cup™ victories as either a player, assistant coach to Tina Theune or head coach. Now Neid, who will pass the baton to former German international Steffi Jones after these Olympic Games in Rio, has crowned her time on the touchline with a gold medal.
In the wake of this triumph, FIFA.com spoke exclusively with Neid at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium about this moment and what has been particularly important to her during her time as coach.
FIFA.com: Can you imagine a better way to end your time as national team coach?
Silvia Neid:It’s the icing on the cake for me. I’ve had an amazing career and won so many titles, but the fact that Germany have now won their first gold medal tops everything. I’m so pleased and happy and also so proud of the team and the team behind the team; after all, I’d be nothing without them.
Did you ever get the feeling that this title may not happen?
Yes, definitely. We played bombastically against Zimbabwe in the group stages, but then Simone Laudehr suffered a serious injury. In the second match against Australia, the morale we have in our team meant we were able to salvage a 2-2 draw. As for the last [group] game [versus Canada], that was very strange. We had to rest several players due to injury and fatigue.
How would you rate your team’s performances during the knockout phase?
I think we discovered our form from the quarter-final onwards, and for me that really was crucial. There was a period where I thought, “Uh-oh, we need something to find our way into this tournament.” Yet from the quarter-final against China it was suddenly clear that the team had arrived and wanted to win – they wanted to do this no matter what. It’s also been clear that we weren’t in worse shape than other countries; on the contrary, we prepared well, the players were super-fit and we knew that something was possible this time.
You once said in an interview with FIFA.com that you learned a lot from your former coaches, including Tina Theune. What will your successor Steffi Jones take from you on her journey?
The most important thing is to find yourself as a coach, so that those around you know what you want and what your philosophy is. People then have to work to that philosophy. Of course, there will be trends and other developments too, but the most crucial thing is to stay genuine instead of pretending or wanting to be somebody that you’re not.
Lastly, what has been most important to you in your long and successful coaching career?
From my own personal experience, I can say that I always managed to be totally honest. I’ve always been honest with my players, which definitely wasn’t always easy. While the truth can sometimes hurt, it’s always the best option in the long run. As a coach, I think honesty is the most important attribute of all.