Germany put a disappointing 2011 behind them by clinching only their second Algarve Cup with a thrilling 4-3 defeat of world champions Japan.
Beaten 1-0 in extra time on home turf by Japan last summer in the FIFA Women's World Cup quarter-finals, Germany have since had their long run of UEFA European Women's Championship qualifying wins ended by Spain. Yet they hit form in Portugal, topping their group by beating Iceland 1-0, China 1-0 and Sweden 4-0. Célia Okoyino da Mbabi scored a hat-trick in the last group game and repeated the trick today at Estádio Algarve, the last in added time just after Japan had cancelled out her 88th-minute penalty; earlier Germany had seen a 2-0 lead disappear.
"That was a great team performance," said Germany coach Silvia Neid, whose team were missing several key players in Portugal, including goalkeeper Nadine Angerer. "The first 30 minutes were very strong, then we lost our way a bit. In the second half you could see we were lacking freshness after four matches in quick succession. But it was good that we did not let go and kept on trying. We fought as things did not go our way.
I gained lots of insights, which is a great thing alongside winning this tournament."
Dzsenifer Marozsan broke the deadlock on 20 minutes from a Melanie Behringer cross and soon after Da Mbabi headed Germany's second. Nahomi Kawasumi pulled one back before the break and substitute Asuna Tanaka levelled ten minutes into the second half. Japan, who beat Denmark, Norway and the United States to top their group, pressed hard but Germany held on. Da Mbabi restored the lead briefly, and struck the decider soon after the equaliser from 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam's Yuki Nagasato. Germany's victory follows that of France in the Cyprus Women's Cup final against Canada on Tuesday; the first time either title has been in European hands since 2009.
Earlier, the United States inflicted UEFA Women's EURO 2013 hosts Sweden's second 4-0 defeat in three days to finish third, and Denmark came fifth as two Johanna Rasmussen goals aided them to a 3-1 win against Iceland. Cecilie Pedersen scored twice as Norway beat Wales to seventh with a 3-0 triumph. Hosts Portugal missed out on ninth as they lost 1-0 to China and the Republic of Ireland overcame Hungary 2-1 to come 11th.
The focus now switches back to UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying, and Germany's morale will be high for Spain's visit to Mannheim on 31 March. Sweden, whose coach Thomas Dennerby used the tournament to experiment with a new 4-2-3-1 formation, return to action the same day against Canada in Malmo as they continue preparations for the summer's Olympic tournament which will also feature France and the United Kingdom.
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