Swedish women aim to slay their 'damn German ghost'
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Stina Blackstenius ended one drought in the women's World Cup last 16 and now she, and Sweden, need to end another on Saturday and beat Germany at a major tournament for the first time in almost three decades.
"We are tired of hearing about this damn German ghost," said defender Magdalena Eriksson looking ahead to a quarter-final in Rennes on Saturday.
Sweden have that chance because striker Blackstenius, who had not scored an international goal since last June, fired the only goal of the encounter with Canada in Paris on Monday.
"It was of course a huge relief and I'm incredibly happy over the goal," said the striker who returned to Linkopings in Sweden last year after three seasons in Montpellier.
Other Swedish players shared the relief.
"I am so happy for Stina, she is a really good player. She had not scored in a long time but now she scored, and she scored an important goal, so..." said strike partner and former Montpellier team-mate Sofia Jakobsson.
Coach Peter Gerhardsson, who had kept starting Blackstenius even though the striker was not scoring, praised her other qualities.
"I always like to defend further up the field," he said. "Stina is a tough player to face."
"When you play as a forward, of course you'll feel better if you score a lot of goals," he added. "She hasn't scored for a while. Maybe that gnaws away at her. Maybe that's a nice feeling afterwards."
It will be a challenge for Blackstenius to find another on Saturday. Among the ominous statistics for the Swedes is that the Germans are the only team yet to concede a goal at the World Cup.
Sweden also have not beaten Germany at major tournaments since 1991, a run of 10 defeats and one draw since then containing some heart-breaking setbacks.
Germany notably won the final of the 2001 Euros, the final of the 2003 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic final, despite Blackstenius scoring for Sweden.
Gerhardsson insisted he was unconcerned by the barren run.
"It's history," said Gerhardsson. "We have new players now. That kind of statistic isn't interesting. We'll be looking at the match in April when we played them. We have to look at how Germany played their last three matches."
"I don't think its relevant to the players."
His players did not entirely agree.
"It's time to change the story," said Chelsea's Eriksson, while Jakobsson said there was a simple reason why Sweden could win.
"Why? Because they have beaten us so many times and now it is our turn," she said.
Veteran defender Nilla Fischer, who spent six seasons in Germany with Wolfsburg, is impatient for a victory.
"It feels like we have said for a few years that now is the time," she remarked. "But we just have to go in and give everything in the quarter-final."
? 2019 AFP