Saturday 3rd June – 21:00 – Commonwealth Stadium
At last summer’s men’s World Cup, I entitled my third place play-off preview “The game that nobody wanted to play”, and it is exactly the same case at this summer’s Women’s World Cup. Germany and England are the beaten semi-finalists, but must now play each other for a spot on the non-existent podium. The Germans, two times winners of the World Cup, were beaten 2-0 by the USA in their semi-final, having beaten Sweden and then France (on penalties) previously in the knockout rounds. England meanwhile, were victorious over Norway and hosts Canada to set-up a first ever semi-final tie, against holders Japan, but were cruelly beaten 2-1, Laura Bassett’s unfortunate own goal in the dying seconds proving decisive. But now both nations must raise their spirits once more for on paper should be a very good game between effectively the two best European sides. It’s a huge rivalry in the men’s game, and the women are no different. You can watch the game live on BBC Three from 8:30pm, with kick-off half an hour later.
England Team News
- Mark Sampson has always made changes from one game to the next, so it’s once again hard to predict who will start in Edmonton.
- It’s unlikely, but he could give game time to the likes of Lianne Sanderson and Jordan Nobbs, who have been sparsely used so far at the tournament.
- Laura Bassett should still start, as Sampson looks to keep her confidence high following her unfortunate own goal against Japan.
The Key Battle: Alexandra Popp vs Lucy Bronze
Usually a striker, Alexandra Popp has been playing on the left of midfield throughout the Women’s World Cup, scoring one goal along the way in the 10-0 opening demolition of the Ivory Coast.
Last year she won the German Women’s Footballer of the Year award, beating eventual Ballon D’or winner Nadine Kessler, which shows how good Popp is. The 24 year also has a very good record for Germany, scoring 28 times in 59 apps, after she won the Under-20 World Cup in 2010.
Lucy Bronze will be her direct opponent, who has actually scored more goals than Popp at this tournament despite being a right-back. After displacing regular first-choice Alex Scott at the start of the tournament, the 23 year old scored the spectacular winning goal against Norway before heading in what proved to be the winner against Canada.
Her superb efforts have been rewarded, and Bronze has been nominated by FIFA for Player of the Tournament. One more good performance against Germany by keeping Popp quiet, and she should put herself firmly in contention for the award.
Last Meeting: England 0-3 Germany (23rd November 2014)
England were roundly beaten by two-time World Cup winners Germany in a historic women’s match at Wembley. A Lionesses record crowd of 45,619 watched the national team’s first standalone game at the home of English football. But the hosts were given a lesson by the reigning European champions, who England have never beaten in 20 attempts. Germany – well organised, efficient passers of the ball and clinical finishers – sealed the victory before half-time, striker Celia Sasic scoring two after an own goal by England defender Alex Scott had sent them on their way.
The Germany Lowdown
- Manager: Silvia Neid
- Captain: Nadine Angerer
- World Ranking: 1st
- Best World Cup Performance: Winners (2003, 2007)
Star Player – Celia Sasic
With FIFA World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler ruled out of the tournament, Germany needed someone to step up to the plate, and Celia Sasic has done just that. She made her international debut aged just 16, and now has 63 goals in 109 caps. Now 27, she came into the tournament off the back of a superb season with Frankfurt, as they won the UEFA Women’s Champions League. She also topped the Bundesliga scoring charts for the second season in a row, but will become a free agent after the World Cup, so I’m sure there are plenty of potential suitors watching in Canada. With six goals in six games, Sasic is the tournament’s top scorer so far. She also scored twice against England at Wembley last November.
Perhaps irrelevant now that Germany have lost the semi-final, but the squad bleeds success. Head coach Silvia Neid, who will step down after the Olympics, is once again able to name a squad brimming with experience and quality. Five players won the 2015 Champions League with Frankfurt, while four lifted Bayern Munich’s first Bundesliga title since 1976. In every single World Cup they have at least reached the quarter-finals, so are a lot more experienced than England at the latter stages.
This may sound silly considering that Germany are the tournament’s top scorers with 20 goals, but their main weakness is that their finishing isn’t clinical enough. If you were to look at the number of chances created by the Germans compared to the goals scored, it would be a poor ratio. For example, in the semi-final against the USA, Silvia Neid’s team actually had more shots (16, compared to the USA’s 11), but none were on target, including Celia Sasic’s missed penalty. England may not be able to restrict Germany from shooting, but they can hope that they haven’t suddenly found their scoring boots, which have been missing for the majority of this tournament.
My Prediction: Germany 2-1 England
2-1 has been the scoreline in England’s last five matches, so I’m going to have to go for it again, but I think we’ll unfortunately be on the wrong end of it. Germany have a stronger squad, and will probably have picked themselves up better from losing the semi-final. Mark Sampson wants to go out on a high, and I think we will score through Toni Duggan, but goals from Celia Sasics and Anja Mittag will win the game for Germany.