With her arms raised in victory, coach Silvia Neid ran onto the field to join the celebration of Germany’s first Olympic gold medal — even jumping onto the players’ dogpile.
What a way to go out.
Dzsenifer Marozsan scored early in the second half Friday and Germany went on to give Neid a 2-1 victory over Sweden for the nation’s first Olympic title in women’s soccer.
Neid, a two-time FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year, is stepping down following the Olympics. The win at the iconic Maracana Stadium gave her one more championship to cap her 11-year career as Germany’s coach.
“What I felt was pure joy, because I know that was what we had earned and what we have worked so hard for,” Neid said.
Sweden, which upset the three-time defending champion United States on penalties in the quarterfinals, earned the silver medal for its best finish in the Olympic tournament since the sport joined the program in 1996. The Swedes also defeated Brazil on penalties in the semifinals, disappointing the host nation’s fans.
“I think we actually won the silver medal rather than losing the gold,” Sweden coach Pia Sundhage said.
Earlier in the day, Canada defeated host Brazil 2-1 for the bronze medal in Sao Paulo. The Canadians also won the bronze at the London Games.
Germany and Sweden were playing in the gold-medal match for the first time. It was also the Olympics’ first all-European final.
Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult gave piggy-back rides to her fellow players in the post-game celebration. Forward Anja Mittag held the jersey of teammate Simone Laudehr, who was injured in the tournament’s opening match, during the medal ceremony.
“This is definitely a new summit for German women’s football,” Neid said.
The German men’s team is also playing in the gold-medal match at the Maracana, facing host Brazil on Saturday. It is the first time one nation has had both its teams in the final.
The German women went into Friday’s match with a tournament-leading 11 goals, paced by Melanie Behringer with five.
Germany had the better chances in the first half, including Mittag’s rebound in the 25th minute that went just wide of the net. Lotta Schelin’s blast three minutes later sailed over the goal and the match was scoreless at the break.
Marozsan’s goal in the 48th sailed between two defenders and into the top-right corner, just beyond the outstretched fingertips of Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Marozsan’s free kick in the 62nd minute hit the post and rebounded off Sweden’s Linda Sembrant for an own-goal, giving Germany a 2-0 advantage. But the Swedes narrowed it in the 67th on Stina Blackstenius’ sliding goal in front of Scuhlt.
In the previous two matches, Sweden hunkered down on defense — drawing criticism from U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo — but Sundhage had her team attack more against Germany.
“It’s different to play against the U.S. and Brazil — and Germany — you have to look at the differences,” Sundhage said. “We felt we were stronger and had more speed against the Germans, so it was the game plan at the very beginning.”
Neid announced last year that she would step down following the Rio de Janeiro Games, making way for current assistant Steffi Jones to take over as coach. Neid will take on a new role as a scout.
“It’s very easy for me to hand of the reins to somebody else. It’s completely different when you decide yourself when to stop,” she said. “I would like to hand over a good team to Steffi Jones. We are in very good shape now we’ve worked very hard and that is the most important thing.”
Neid scored 48 goals in 111 games as a player for the German national team from 1982-96. She was an assistant on Germany’s team that won the 2003 World Cup, then took over as coach of the senior women in 2005, leading the team to another World Cup title in 2007. She was named FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year for 2010 and 2013.
Sundhage’s contract is up on Dec. 31, and she has not given an indication of what she might do. She’s had an equally illustrious coaching career, winning gold medals with U.S. national team at both the Beijing and London Games. She led the Americans to the final match of the 2011 World Cup, but the team fell on penalties to Japan. She returned home to coach Sweden in 2013.
Germany also defeated Sweden 2-1 on a golden goal to win the 2003 Women’s World Cup, which was held in the United States because of the SARS outbreak in China.
Neid said for 34 years she has been a player, an assistant or a coach.
“Now I want to do something else,” she said through a translator. “I want to keep on learning other things. I want to do something different.”