SYDNEY (AP) — Germany’s players expected they would have qualified for the knockout round by now at the Women’s World Cup because, well, they usually do.
Only once before has two-time World Cup champion Germany needed to win its last group game to advance. The No. 2-ranked Germans play winless South Korea, ranked 17th, on Thursday in Brisbane, Australia.
“It’s added pressure,” head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said after Germany’s shocking 2-1 loss to Colombia on Sunday.
Germany hadn’t lost a group-stage match at the Women’s World Cup in 28 years.
In 1995, Germany lost its second group-stage game 3-2 to host Sweden. Germany went on to the Women’s World Cup final that year, losing to Norway.
Until encountering Colombia at the Sydney Football Stadium, Germany hadn’t lost in 20 group-stage matches since.
And now, the stoppage-time header by Colombia’s Manuela Vanegas has the Germans facing the possibility of not qualifying out of the group for the first time ever.
“The fact is we have to win the last game. This is all that counts for me right now,” midfielder Lena Oberdorf said.
Oberdorf, who played in Germany’s run to the final at the 2022 Euros, understands the pressure of big-time games and recognizes that this is not the position the team envisaged coming into the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
“We have become so strong as a team, we just calm down, focus on the last game and then do a task,” Oberdorf said.
By conceding two goals to Colombia, the Germans allowed more goals in one match than they had in the last two Women’s World Cup group stages combined. Germany allowed no goals in group-stage matches in 2019 and just one in 2015.
For a group of players not used to losing in this early part of the tournament, it’s even more important for Voss-Tecklenburg to handle emotions and make sure the team is in the right mindset moving forward.
“Well, my job is to be a role model for everybody and say ‘It’s up to us,’” Voss-Tecklenburg said. “To encourage my players, to stay with them, and to support them, to say ‘We’re not going to be divided, and we win together, we lose together, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.’”
After losing to Sweden in the group stage in 1995, Germany went out and won 6-1 against Brazil.
Even with a win against South Korea, Germany is likely to finish second in Group H. Germany has only finished second in its group at the Women’s World Cup once before, in 1999, when it had a win and two draws in the group.
Germany also could be knocked out of the Women’s World Cup after group play for the first time ever. If South Korea pulls off a shocking upset, and Morocco wins or draws against Colombia, then Germany would finish third in the group, with Colombia and Morocco advancing.
Germany opened the tournament with a 6-0 win over a Moroccan team making its debut in the tournament. An 89th-minute equalizer on Sunday night had many people thinking Germany had escaped with a draw against Colombia. That result gave even South Korea the slightest of chances of advancing despite losses to Colombia and Morocco, adding more pressure on the German team.
“We have to go all in,” midfielder Lina Magull said. “We have to win this game, and I think still now I am (feeling) very positive to win this game.”
Clay Witt is a student at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.
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