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Germany defenders continue forward momentum

Germany conceded their first goal of these finals on Sunday but defenders Merle Barth and Manjou Wilde remain committed to the attacking spirit that has imbued their campaign.

Germany defender Merle Barth vies with Juliette Kemppi of Finland
Germany defender Merle Barth vies with Juliette Kemppi of Finland ©Getty Images

Germany's 1-1 draw with Finland on Sunday may not have been a vintage display, but in the end both coach Maren Meinert and her players were satisfied with the performance of a much-changed team.

"We only managed a draw, but the main thing is finishing top of our group," said centre-half Merle Barth. Right-back Manjou Wilde expanded a little, pointing out the achievement in heading a section that included title holders Sweden, women's football powerhouse Norway and a promising Finland side. "We knew the Scandinavian countries would be very good but I think we did very well and deservedly won the group," she said.

Wilde thrived in an often advanced position in Carmarthen, helping Germany dominate possession for a third successive Group B fixture. "I enjoy attacking from the back," she explained. "I have the same defensive responsibilities as every full-back, but in attack I play like a midfielder does. I enjoy that, because I was originally a midfielder."

Pushing up so far places a lot of responsibility on the central defenders, yet Barth and partner Sarah Romert take it in their collective stride. "Of course, most of my responsibilities are defending, but even we are very attacking," the 19-year-old from Bayer 04 Leverkusen said. "We are positioned very high up the pitch, but we have been well prepared and cover each other. We can really rely on everyone around us."

For once, against Finland, Germany did not quite have everything their own way, but SV Werder Bremen's Wilde says there is an obvious reason why. "All the games were very similar, with lots of possession for us," she said. "But you could see that Finland still had a lot to play for. Before the game they needed a draw to make the semis and you could feel that from the very first minute. They made things very difficult for us."

Barth added: "Every team has to offer space somewhere. But I believe we are doing well to deny our opponents as much as possible. We would have beaten Finland if we had taken our chances. Now we hope to win the next one." The next one, of course, does mean a lot to Germany: Wednesday's Llanelli semi-final against France.

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