Germany Withstands Dominant French Effort, Wins In Shootout To Reach Semis
MONTREAL, Quebec -- Germany was about to take part in its first Women's World Cup shootout, and coach Sylvia Neid only had four confident shooters.
"I asked the players who wanted to take one -- some said yes straight away while the others just looked to the ground," Neid said. "We were lacking one -- we only had four."
And the problem is, the player Neid would pick to fill in that fifth spot -- midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan -- was lying on the ground with a swollen ankle in the far corner of the field.
"I sent Lena [Goessling] to ask [Marozsan] if she would take one," Neid said, "and she came back and said, 'Yes, she can.'"
But first, Marozsan had to check one thing.
"I was desperate to take one -- I love taking penalties," Marozsan said. "[But] I had to put some weight back on my foot first and see if I really could take it. I was able to get back on my feet and felt I could just about do it, so it was a yes, although I was in pain."
Germany hit all five of its penalty kicks -- Marozsan nailed the fourth shot -- and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer saved France's fifth attempt, as Germany won 5-4 in penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time. Germany remains in Montreal, where it will face the United States on Tuesday in the semifinals.
France, despite a valiant if not emphatic effort, goes home wondering why.
On the eve of Friday's quarterfinal, French captain Wendie Renard talked to her teammates about leaving no room for regret. Although the match had all the ingredients worthy of a Women's World Cup final, and France gave it its best shot, there were plenty of regrets after the most dramatic of exits.
"It's just a reflection of life -- there are lots of success and just as many failures," France coach Philippe Bergeroo said. "... We dominated, but didn't win. I find it very hard to explain. It's very complicated tonight. We had so many chances and had to put them in and we didn't do that.
"It's true that it's a great, great disappointment. Of course [qualifying for] the Olympics was the objective, but we're all still very frustrated. We played a very good game and we just weren't able to take the chances we had."
Indeed France's profligacy cost it a place in the World Cup semifinals. Neid admitted as much afterwards, even if her side did step up to the plate in the second half after a meek and disorganized opening 45 minutes that was very un-German-like.
The epilogue of this epic quarterfinal encounter was quite the opposite, though. Given a generous penalty in regulation to tie the score with five minutes remaining, thanks to Celia Sasic's sixth tournament strike, Germany's coolness from the penalty spot rescued victory from beyond the jaws of defeat.
However, Neid admitted that it was only immediately prior to the penalties, when she was able to smile with Angerer, that the 51-year-old coach actually felt her team was going to win. Not before.
"I was worried, above all when they went 1-0 up," Neid said. "I did still have hope that we could turn it around. But I didn't feel so certain enough to say, 'We'll make it.' Yes, we were lucky.
"France was really superior to us in the first half. It was certainly the most intense game I can remember. I'd say on a scale of one to 10, this was a 10."
Heading into the penalties, Germany was 12-for-12 on spot-kicks in the World Cup. The shootout was no different and now Germany has made it 17 of 17, even if finding that fifth shooter took a little extra time.
"Thank God Nadine saved their fifth because how would we have gone on from there?" Neid said. "Somebody would have been forced to take one, and that's never a good thing."
Marozsan, whose ankle was swelling by the second after she fell badly late in the game, has a little over three days to recover for Germany's match against the U.S. women. That might not sound like much time, given also the context of 120 pulsating, tension-filled minutes plus the drama of penalties, but Neid is confident that tiredness will not be an issue on Tuesday.
"From such a game that was on a knife edge, and then to win it makes you really, really self-confident," she said. "We're among the best four sides in the world and that does us all good, so maybe we can go on and get even more out of this."
France, meanwhile, goes home filled with thoughts of what might have been.
"We have huge regrets," surmised Bergeroo. "This game was lost long before the penalties, due to us missing those chances earlier on."