[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP] Germany's players unfurled the banner reading, “One Team. One Dream. Millions of Fans. Thank You!” But the dream had become a nightmare. The players, with tears in their eyes, had lost to Japan in the quarterfinals and would soon be greeted with headlines such as “A disaster for women's soccer.”
Aiming for a third straight title, the home team fell, 1-0, in overtime to Japan, which had never won a second-round game at the Women’s World Cup.
With her goal in the 108th minute, Karina Maruyama stunned the sellout crowd of 26,067 in Wolfsburg. The TV audience of nearly 17 million set a German record for a women’s soccer game.
The newspaper Die Welt called the host’s early exit “a disaster for the tournament, the mood of the nation, and for women’s soccer itself.”
Before the tournament, German federation president Theo Zwanziger extended Coach Silvia Neid’s contract from 2013 to 2016. Now the pair are under fire.
The quarterfinal loss also eliminated Germany from the 2012 Olympic tournament because UEFA uses the World Cup as qualifying. Europe’s representatives will be host England, and semifinalists France and Sweden.
Neid’s decision to bench Germany’s all-time leading scorer Birgit Prinz and hardly use up-and-coming star Fatmire Bajramaj drew minimal criticism while the team won all three of its group games, but now Neid’s player selection and tactics are being sharply criticized.
“Frau Neid, it all went wrong,” announced the tabloid Bild, which offered that the Prinz controversy unsettled the team, that the Germans had no system of play, and the players couldn’t handle the pressure.
The ARD/ZDF had hyped its coverage with the slogan, “Third place is for men” – a reference to the German men’s finish on home soil in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010.
“We’re all completely sad and disappointed,” said midfielder Lena Goessling. “We had all planned that we’d be in the tournament another week.”