RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Coach Silvia Neid’s final match as coach of Germany will be for the gold medal at the Rio Games.
Quite a way to cap an illustrious coaching career.
“What could be nicer than to have your last game with your team here, as a team coach playing for the gold medal in this fantastic stadium,” Neid said. “There is nothing nicer that I could imagine.”
Germany faces Sweden on Friday at Rio’s legendary Maracana Stadium in the Olympic women’s soccer final. Canada plays host Brazil for the bronze in Sao Paulo.
It is the first time that Germany or Sweden has played for the gold medal, and it’s also the first time two European teams have met in the finals.
For Neid, it will be bittersweet as she ends her 11-year stint as head coach of Germany, currently ranked No. 2 in the world.
She long ago announced that she would leave following the Rio Games, making way for current assistant Steffi Jones to take over as coach. But Neid won’t walk away entirely from the team: She’s slipping into a new role as a scout.
Her departure marks sort of end of an era for the German team. It follows the retirement of star striker Celia Sasic who, at age 27, expressed a desire to go back to school and raise a family after 111 appearances and 63 goals for the national team. Nadine Kessler, a former FIFA world player of the year, stepped down shortly before last year’s World Cup.
And longtime goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, another former world player of the year, departed after last summer’s World Cup.
“She used to be a very emotional coach, especially for the young players, so that they were scared of her,” Angerer laughed when describing her friend and former coach. “But over the last years she’s gotten so much more calmer and so much more relaxed. She’s so passionate about the game, she wants to win so badly. ”
Neid played in 111 games for the German national team from 1982-96, scoring 48 goals. During her playing career, Germany won three UEFA championships and was runner up at the 1995 World Cup. Her last match as a player was at the Atlanta Games, against Brazil.
She went on to be 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.
Neid expects that the match on Saturday will be bittersweet.
“I’m looking forward to our last discussion before the game, I’m looking forward to walk together with the team, I’m looking forward to the butterflies in my stomach before the game, which is usual before such a big game, I’m looking forward to the scenery,” she said. “I’m looking forward to all of that.”
And, of course, she’s hoping she goes out with gold medals hanging around her player’s necks.
“We would just simply love, I know the players would love to get the gold medal,” Neid said. “And they will give their all to do it.”