> Germany Rules The World Again
Germany's captain Brigit Prinz and her colleagues celebrate victory with the cup. Whatever disappointments Germans had forlosing out in the final of the 2006 World Cup, their ladies made up for it yesterday when they beat Brazil 2-0 in an epoch final of the FIFA Women's World Cup (WWC) played at the Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai, China.
The victory earned within regulation time, the first time it has happened in the WWC, put the Germans into the history books as the first team to win the title consecutively having dethroned USA in the 2003 final.
None of the previous finals were decided within 90 minutes, the winners have always been decided either by an extra time goal or penalties.
This final broke the rule and as in each world cup final, this one also had its own, including a penalty miss from Brazil, a heroine turned villain in Marta, boos from the fans to the referee who they considered was unfair to the Lady Selecaos and exciting fireworks, all added up to a unique atmosphere only this game could witness.
But while it was all night celebration which crowned an unbeaten run at this competition, the Brazilians could only shed tears of disappointment as their hopes of being crowned champions for the first time after five appearances, came to an end.
Not even the top individual prizes they won could ease their misery. Marta, as widely expected, was the queen of the competition, going home with the Adidas Golden Shoe award for the top scorer with seven goals and the Adidas Golden Ball award for the Best Player.
The Germans' victory was the culmination of an unbeaten run at this competition (they did not concede any goal and scored 21), an inspirational leadership from captain Birgit Prinz and a sterling performance from goalkeeper Nadine Angerer who was the stumbling block between Brazil and a win.
The Germans also have their coach, Silvia Neid, to thank for her strategy that worked to perfection and in the process also earned her a place in the history books as one of only two female coaches to have led a side to WWC glory.
Neid, a 1995 WWC finalist, goes into history as the only female coach to have won two different world titles, first with the Germany U-19 side in Canada last year as well as the 2007 WWC. She was also the assistant to Tina Theune-Meyers, the first female to lead a team to WWC glory when the Germans won in 2003.
Having played an entertaining game with immense display of skills, most had tipped Brazil to win the title but the Germans, craftily mapped out their strategy and managed to find antidotes to the fast-paced Brazilians and they succeeded.
They intercepted the long passes to Marta and Cristiane, while as a team, they attacked and defended together, just as the German machine at work.
The first half was evenly fought, each side taking the chances but particularly for the Germans, they were saved by goalkeeper Angerer, crowned the best at this competition, for the brave saves she made from Marta's incursions and Cristiane's onslaught.
In the second half, the two sides re-launched their search for goals but it was the champions who found their noses in front as captain Prinz found herself at the right place at the right time in the 52nd minute.
Completely played out in the first half, Prinz suddenly found herself unmarked in the middle, positioned herself properly for a well-laid pass, kept the ball under control and sleekily unleashed a shot that beat goalkeeper Andreia.
That fired the Brazilians up who surged forward from all angles but strangely any fouls committed on them was ignored by Australian referee Tammy Ogston while the slightest push on the Germans was penalised.
But the Brazilians, continuously urged on by the fans, did not relent in their efforts and earned a penalty in the 62nd minute when Marta was brought down in the box, attracting wild cheers from the crowds.
The impeccable Marta chose to kick, but proved she was human after all, stepping in the shoes of such great players like Romario and Roberto Baggio, who at such crucial times in World Cup finals, also missed the spot kicks. She had positioned herself well but her shot was parried by goalkeeper Angerer into play, drawing yells of disappointment from the fans.
Angerer, later in an interview, admitted she had watched Marta score a penalty against Australia and guessed which way she would take the one against her, and she had it right, turning the most loved and adored player at this competition and driving engine of the Selecaos into a villain in a moment.
Moments later, she almost made up for that loss when in a solo effort she beat her markers and got deep into the goal area, but yet again, she could not beat the agile Angerer.
It became a ding dong but exciting affair from then on, the Brazilians, having a few more chances, and even made substitutions, all in search of the equaliser.
The Germans also made some changes, evidently to tighten the midfield and the defence and moved in and out when necessary to ease the pressure on Angerer.
And as time wore on, it was obvious the Germans were tapping their experience to drive closer to their dream with the slim 1-0 lead but had a pleasant surprise in the 86th minute when Simone Laudehr connected home with a bullet cornerkick that was neither well grabbed by goalkeeper Andreia nor cleared by the defenders.
With time running out, the Brazilians tried to get back into the game, but it was an effort too late as there was little they could do against a resolute German side that jubilated late into the night after the official ceremony of fireworks, glittering presentation of the prestigious title was long over and now return home still as the mistresses of the women's game.
The Brazilians, whose best performance at the WWC until yesterday was a third place in 1999, could not be consoled and Marta, the new face of the women's game, so dejected and probably ruing that penalty she missed, managed to force a smile on her face when she was called up to receive both the Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards.
Prinz did not go home empty-handed. She also had the Silver Ball as the second best player of the competition while Cristiane also of Brazil won the Bronze Ball.
USA's Abby Wambach led her side's resurgence with a brace in the 4-1 thriller against Norway in the third place match which preceded the final.
Already with four goals, Wambach managed to sneak past the other contenders to win the Silver Shoe as the second highest scorer with six goals, sharing the podium with Raghnild Gulbrandsen of Norway whose only goal in yesterday's game pushed her tally to six too.
Norway won the Fair Play award but were still disappointed over their loss to the USA.
Story by Rosalind Amoh
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