Germany Rewarded with Gold as Dzsenifer Marozsan Breaks Down the Swedish Wall

Andrew GibneyFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19:  Dzsenifer Marozsan of Germany and Saskia Bartusiak of Germany celebrates after going 0-2 ahead during the Women's Olympic Gold Medal match between Sweden and Germany at Maracana Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In her final game in charge of Germany, legendary coach Silvia Neid tasted gold after orchestrating a 2-1 victory over Sweden in the Maracana to complete Germany's clean sweep of tournaments. Not a bad way to bow out.

There were expectations that Friday's final wouldn't be able to give the 52,000 home crowd the spectacle they wanted. Sweden's defensive tactics, combined with Germany's reluctance to find the back of the net with ease, didn't suggest a free-flowing final.

However, Sweden came out of the blocks positively, pushing up the field when they had the ball, winning some early set pieces and putting Neid's team under pressure.

Pia Sundhage hadn't completely abandoned her game plan, though. As soon as the Scandinavians lost the ball, they were quick to get back and regain their position and form a yellow wall in front of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

The first chance of the match was created by Sundhage's team. Lotta Schelin made a great run down the right flank; the experienced forward got her head up and cut the ball back to Olivia Schough in the box, but the Eskilstuna United midfielder couldn't get the shot on target.

That was a clear indication of Sweden's tactics. They were going to push up the field when the opportunity arose, looking for the runs of Schelin or Sofia Jakobsson and the creativity of Kosovare Asllani and Caroline Seger.

After the first 18 minutes, Sweden had been given three offside decisions to Germany's zero; it was clear they weren't just there to park the bus.

Despite their early pressure, Sweden should have been behind twice in the first half.

Melanie Leupolz was first, heading over the bar after getting on the end of Tabea Kemme's cross, but she would be upstaged after 25 minutes.

Leonie Maier had gotten forward from full-back, fired a shot at Lindahl's goal and watched as the Chelsea Ladies' goalkeeper could only parry the effort. Anja Mittag was following up the play and the ball fell kindly to the forward. Yet she could only shank her shot wide.

Mittag had the best chance of the first half.
Mittag had the best chance of the first half.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

It was an amazing opportunity to take the lead and a chance you would expect the Paris Saint-Germain forward to take.

When previewing this final, this writer had suggested that someone like Dzsenifer Marozsan would need to be at her best to help unlock the Swedish back four.

Throughout the tournament, she hasn't quite been the force that Frankfurt and Germany fans had become accustomed to. That all changed three minutes into the second half.

Sweden had started well after the break, but Germany found the opener with their first attack.

Marozsan found a yard of space on the edge of the box, shifted the ball on to her right foot and curled a majestic effort into the top corner, giving Lindahl no chance.

It was a wonderful goal and one worthy of an Olympic final.

The second goal wasn't as memorable, but Marozsan again has to be credited with its creation. Just 14 minutes after the opener, the forward stood over a free-kick, curled it towards goal and watched as it rebounded off the post, back against Linda Sembrant and over the line.

This was a cruel way to go two behind but another piece of magic from Marozsan.

Sweden were not finished, though. Just like they had against the USA and Brazil, they showed fight, pushing forward to try and get back into the final.

Just five minutes after Germany had made it 2-0, they pulled one back. Some nice build-up play released Schough down the right, her low, accurate cross picked out substitute Stina Blackstenius, and she converted from close range to claim her second of the tournament.

Sweden pushed forward, trying to find that equaliser, but it wouldn't come. Schough had a couple of chances inside the box but couldn't quite find the contact she wanted. Germany crowded the penalty area and managed to scramble the ball to safety.

Schough had chances to equalise, but Germany held on.
Schough had chances to equalise, but Germany held on.Felipe Dana/Associated Press

Neid's team held on, relief and elation filling the field when the referee signalled the end of the match, handing the coach the perfect end to her managerial career.

"It’s the icing on the cake for me," she told FIFA.com. "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."

They may not have impressed all the way throughout the Rio Games, but just like the USWNT in the World Cup last summer, Germany's performances picked up after the group stage, and that was key in their triumph.

"I think we discovered our form from the quarter-final onwards, and for me that really was crucial," continued Neid.

"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."

Adding Olympic gold to the trophy cabinet now means that Germany has the complete set: two-time World Cup winners in 2003 and 2007, eight-time European champions and now Olympic champions.

For Neid herself, she bows out on top of the game. As a player and a coach, she has won two World Cups, eight European Championships, three bronze medals and now gold, and she had some wise words after the game for her successor Steffi Jones:

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.

For Sweden, it is their first Olympic medal of any colour. It is something to build on and a very valuable lesson going into the 2017 European Championship in the Netherlands. They may have found their new style, a way to keep the experienced legs of Schelin and Seger going for another year.

That in itself adds a new level of intrigue going into the Euros next summer.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19:  German players celebrate as they receive their medals following victory in the Women's Olympic Gold Medal match between Sweden and Germany at Maracana Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Cl
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Germany will go there now as favourites. The last time Germany didn’t come away with the trophy was 1993. As Olympic champions, they definitely won’t want to relinquish that crown anytime soon.

That would mean they could then go into the 2019 World Cup in France looking to hold all three titles at the same time.

The last time it was possible was in 2008, but Germany could only win the bronze in Beijing. As with all champions, a target has now been painted on their backs. Everyone always wants to beat the champions and Germany wouldn’t want it any other way.