Germany chases history in Women's World Cup final

September 29, 2007
By Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China -- No women's team has been able to successfully defend a World Cup or Olympic title. Never has a team looked as likely to do so as Germany.

Its test comes Sunday against Brazil in the final of the Women's World Cup.

From the time it won its opening game 11-0, Germany was stamped as the team to beat. It enters the final as the highest-scoring team and has gone 529 minutes without allowing a World Cup goal.

"It would be absolutely special to be the first team to win two in a row," goalkeeper Nadine Angerer said. "We are aware of that record. We have a whole list of reasons we want to win this World Cup, and that is one of them."

"I'm proud of what we've achieved by not letting in a goal, but if we win the final 3-2 it would be fine with me."

The United States will play Norway on Sunday in the third-place playoff.

Germany's perfect defensive record will face a stiff challenge against Brazil strikers Marta and Cristiane, who have scored 12 goals between them in this tournament.

Marta, who is set to win the Golden Boot as the World Cup's top scorer, said the team always believed in its chances of winning the title.

"The expectations were not high in the media, but after our performance in the Pan American Games, we had the belief inside ourselves that we could do it," Marta said Saturday. "We were determined to get to the final and be champions."

The team has also made significant progress off the field, bringing the women's game into the mainstream of its soccer-crazed homeland.

Brazil's 4-0 rout of the U.S. in the semifinals prompted an immediate reaction back home -- the federation announced Friday it would start the first national women's league at the end of October.

"Getting the title would be an inspiration to Brazilians to get their daughters playing football," Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos said Saturday. "They can dream of being the next Marta, the next Daniela, the next Formiga, or the next Birgit Prinz."

Brazil has long had the talent to be a force in the women's game, but in this tournament the team has added tactical know-how and mental strength to its usual flair and improvisation.

"I've been a little bit surprised in this tournament because Brazil are much more disciplined with their tactics than they have been in the past," Angerer said. "I've played together with Cristiane in club football, so of course I know that they have good individual players. They also have a lot of self-confidence at the moment."

Along with confidence, Brazil's most valuable commodity is speed. World player of the year Marta combines pace with technique. Maycon's speed when breaking from midfield hurt the United States on several occasions.

Germany has never lost to Brazil at the senior level, with a record of three wins and two draws, and has the ability to attack.

Prinz, who will become the first woman to play in three World Cup finals, and forwards Sandra Smisek and Kerstin Garefreckes plus attacking midfielder Renate Lingor have 13 goals among them in China. All four have the experience of playing in a World Cup final before.