Having Nadine Angerer on your side in a penalty shoot-out is enough to give any team confidence and hope.
Those were the positive thoughts going through the heads of Germany coach Silvia Neid and her five penalty takers in the shoot-out that followed their goalless draw with France in Friday’s quarter-final at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.
“We all know what she’s capable of. She gives you that little bit of extra confidence,” Germany striker Dzsenifer Marozsan told FIFA.com, expressing the faith she and her team-mates have in their ultra-reliable custodian.
That faith was well-placed on Friday. Maroszan and four of her team-mates did their bit by converting from the spot. They then looked on as Angerer did hers, the keeper flinging herself to her left to keep out Claire Lavogez’s final effort out with her knee and give the Germans a 5-4 shootout win and with it a place in the semis again.
Germany’s last line of defence has a habit of stopping decisive penalties. It was Angerer who denied Marta of Brazil from the spot in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007 and preserved the Germans’ 1-0 lead, one they went on to double en route to clinching their second world title.
And it was Angerer who stopped not one but two normal-time penalties to deny Norway in the final of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013. After keeping out Trine Ronning’s first-half effort to ensure the scores stayed level, she then guessed right to thwart Solveig Gulbrandsen from the spot in the second half, a saved that maintained a 1-0 lead for Germany and helped them retain their European crown.
*Practice makes perfect *
Angerer has won four other European titles in her storied career as well as two World Cup winners’ medals, the first of them at USA 2003, a tournament she spent entirely on the bench. The second came at that China 2007 tournament, when she played every single game without conceding a goal.
A third could be about to come her way in Canada, where she added to her legendary reputation on Friday, even if she was not quite able to meet Neid’s demand that she stop two penalties in the shootout.
“Only two? No problem,” said Angerer, with her trademark sense of irony. “You only saved one though,” retorted her coach with a broad smile.
Attempting to explain her recipe for penalty-saving success, the Germany captain said: “All I think about when I stand on the line is keeping out the next penalty. I don’t have a method. I just wait for as long as possible, choose the right side and dive. There aren’t any tactics. It’s just intuition.
“Michael Fuchs (Germany’s goalkeeping coach) studies our rivals closely and gives me advice. He tells me what each player tends to do,” she continued, before adding with a smile: “Whether I go out and do it though, is another story.”
As Neid explained, Angerer owes her gift for saving penalties to intuition and a lot of training: “We practice penalties in every training session, all year round. It’s part of our routine and we don’t just do it when we get to this stage of tournaments.
“That’s why the players feel comfortable when the time comes. After each session they take penalties between themselves. It’s a way of helping them concentrate.”
“I felt happy but completely drained after saving the penalty,” said Germany’s hero of the hour. “It was a very intense match and we got an adrenalin rush after the penalty.”
Coach Neid had very good reason to feel relieved. Not only did Angerer’s save give Germany victory in a match in which, as she acknowledged, they had been outplayed in every department by the French, it also meant she did not have to ask another of her players to step up to the spot.
“I asked for volunteers and got four,” explained Neid. “I was one short and we asked Jenny (Marozsan). She’d twisted her ankle and was in pain but she said yes straightaway.
“As each penalty went by I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God”, because it’s not at all easy in those situations to go and ask someone to take the decisive kick.”
Angerer came to her rescue just in time, however, with Neid expressing her gratitude with a massive hug.
The Portland Thorns keeper has already announced her intention to retire from international football at the end of Canada 2015. Yet after helping keep Germany on course in their bid to win a third world title, she has signalled her intention of signing off on a high.