Germany vs Sweden Preview: Two coaching greats go head-to-head as European giants battle for Olympic glory
Image credit: VAVEL

On Friday evening, Sweden and Germany face-off to crown the 2016 Olympic Women's Football champion.

It will be an historic day for both these sides, and it has already been an historic tournament; Sweden have never managed to get past the quarters, Germany the semis.

However with the pair now one win away from Gold, that is the only piece of history they will want to take away from this tournament.

The clash of two of the game's greats

Pia Sundhage and Silvia Neid have been two stalwarts in a rapidly changing landscape in women's football. Whether it be disputes, disillusion and everything in between, both have come away with their dignity and the respect of their peers. With Neid calling it a day and Sundhage hunting a third gold, this is a huge match beyond mere medals.

With both starting their footballing ventures in the 1970s, the pair really have been through it all and are the pioneers of what we now have today. Neid and Sundhage both had very successful playing careers behind them and the transition into management has allowed them to impart that knowledge on those below them.

Will it now be the turn of Steffi Jones to challenge Jill Ellis in the battle of the proverbial successors to their respective tutors? Either way, what the golden duo have transformed with what has been a time of huge change; from tactics to everything else, they both deserve an incredible amount of praise.

It is the final time the pair will meet. | Image credit: UEFA
It is the final time the pair will meet. | Image credit: UEFA

Germany finding form at the right time, again

Shock, Germany are getting better as the tournament goes on. The men and women have mirrored each other and, after struggling in the group, both are now favourites to claim Gold and make it a first-ever footballing golden double for the nation. After opening up with a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe, things looked simple for Neid's side.

However, a late draw with Australia and defeat with Canada meant they only just scrapped second place. A battling but deserved win over China set up a rematch with Canada in the semis, where they really came to life. Sara Däbritz and Melanie Behringer, again, got the goals to secure the win and a spot in the final.

Sweden's penalty perfection

As for Sweden, they mustered up a late 1-0 victory over South Africa to start their campaign. That was followed by a devastating 5-1 defeat to Brazil, and the beginning of Sundhage's defensive masterplan. China were held to a stalemate to qualify in third, albeit comfortably.

With there having never been a penalty shoot-out in the women's football at an Olympics games before this year, Sweden made history by doing just that with the USA. Despite a certain goalkeeper's best efforts, it was Chelsea's Hedvig Lindahl that was the victorious shot-stopper as they upset everyone's favourites for gold on spot-kicks.

One game being decided from 12 yards was bad enough, but fast-forward a few days and 120 and Sweden were going to their second successive shoot-out. This time, without any antics from the opposition, they ousted hosts Brazil to advance to the final. Surely it won't be penalties for a third time in a row?

Sweden celebrate penalty triumph. | Image source: Zimbio
Sweden celebrate penalty triumph. | Image source: Zimbio

No new injury concerns ahead of the game

Aside from the injury to the very impressive Fridolina Rolfö, Sweden are at full strength for this game. They had to make do without the Linköpings FC youngster against Brazil after she was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament, so any changes will be down to Sundhage's tinkering.

Germany's only injury of note came in their opener, and they have since gone on to cope pretty well without Simone Laudehr. The Bayern Munich summer signing was replaced by Svenja Huth, who is yet to feature, and it would be a shock to see Neid make a change to their starting line-up.

Where will the game be won and lost?

With Sweden's defence and midfield looking incredibly solid, they will need to continue that form in order to withstand what could be prolonged periods of German pressure. Also, their attack could do with sharpening up. Sweden are in the final having scored just three goals in their five games, which emphasises how key their defence has been.

Nilla Fischer and Linda Sembrant have been superb, while Jessica Samuelsson has earned constant plaudits throughout the tournament for her performances at right-back. The midfield unit of Caroline Seger, Lisa Dahlkvist and Emilia Appelqvist shield and work as well as any trio, but there is a real lack of service to Stina Blackstenius.

Behringer celebrates. | Image credit: Getty Images
Behringer celebrates. | Image credit: Getty Images

The nightmarish group game against Brazil aside, Sweden have only conceded to Alex Morgan in the tournament so far. Germany will have to find a way to get their attack into gear, or it could be a long night for all concerned at the Maracana. Behringer's right foot can break through most things, but if she isn't on song then it'll could be difficult.

Däbritz has more than proved her ability at 10 in this tournament, and her creativity and finishing ability could be key to any success the Germans have in breaking down a stoic, Swedish defence. Anja Mittag and Dzsenifer Marozsan have been rather quiet so far, but if all three fire - with Behringer and Alex Popp - it could be Gold for Neid.

Predticted line-ups

Germany: (4-2-3-1) Schult; Maier, Krahn, Bartusiak, Kemme; Behringer, Marozsan; Leupolz, Däbritz, Mittag; Popp.

Sweden: (4-3-3) Lindahl; Samuelsson, Sembrant, Fischer, Rubensson; Seger, Dahlkvist, Appelqvist; Schelin, Blacksteinius, Asllani.