- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) - Sweden’s Pia Sundhage and Germany’s Silvia Neid have known each other for so long - since their playing days in the mid-1990s, in fact - that the veteran women’s soccer coaches are comfortable spending time together in any setting.

Including the tight confines of a hotel elevator.

That’s where Sundhage and Neid bumped into each other in Ottawa before their teams meet to open the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup on Saturday.

“You talk to each other, you hug each other,” Neid said, through an interpreter on Friday, of her chance encounter with Sundhage. “But when things get going tomorrow, that’s of no consequence, how long you’ve known each other. You only want one thing: Your team wants to win.”

It’s no different for Sundhage, despite knowing this is the final time she’s likely to face Neid, who is retiring after this season.

“It’s too bad that she is finishing, because she is good for women’s football,” Sundhage said. “But I have nothing else to think about except the Germany game.”

The top-ranked Germans are favored after going 2-0-1 to finish first atop Group B.

The fifth-ranked Swedes had a much harder time advancing. They survived the so-called Group of Death by finishing third with three ties, before clinching one of four allocated spots into the Round of 16.

For Sundhage, it’s all about taking advantage of second chances after Sweden had to wait in Edmonton, Alberta, until the final group-round games were played Wednesday.

“Now it’s time,” she said. “Teams that get another chance can do well. And that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

It won’t be easy for Sweden, which faces an ever-on-the-attack German opponent that leads the tournament with 15 goals and 41 shots on goal.

Sweden has scored just three times (plus an own goal by Nigeria in a 3-3 draw) on eight shots on goal, and will have to rely on its physical defensive style to keep the Germans in check.

“I don’t think we’ll have one player standing out to change the situation out there,” Sundhage said. “We need a yellow and blue team, and a little bit of attitude to win that game.”

Here are several things to look out for as Sweden and Germany meet for the fourth time in World Cup play:

HISTORY: The Swedes have a 2-1 edge over Germany in World Cup meetings, but the loss was a difficult one. Nia Kuenzer scored in the 98th minute in Germany’s 2-1 win over Sweden in the 2003 championship game.

And then there was the 2013 European semifinal, when Sweden’s bid to win the championship on home soil ended with a 1-0 loss to Germany.

“The statistics are not positive for our side,” veteran Swede midfielder Therese Sjogran said. “It’s a new match, and we’re going into this match feeling that we have a good chance.”

NO NADINE: The Germans haven’t missed a beat playing without Nadine Kessler, the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. The midfielder missed an opportunity to make her World Cup debut after announcing she was having knee surgery in March.

Neid has shifted her formation by dropping Anja Mittag and Alexandra Popp to cover Kessler’s responsibilities. Mittag has a scored a tournament-leading four goals

HOME SWEET HOME: The Germans have become comfortable in Ottawa after playing two group-round games in Canada’s capital.

“We feel at home here, so it’s nice for us,” Neid said, before being asked whether the Germans should expect to have neutral Canadian fans on their side. “I really don’t know that, but we have not done anything here to Canadians, so why shouldn’t they be for us?”

LONG ROAD: Sweden is playing in its third time zone, after opening the World Cup with two games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and then playing at Edmonton on Tuesday.

Upon arriving in Ottawa on Thursday, Sundhage had her players go for a walk to freshen their legs before they got drenched in a downpour.

CORNER KICKS: Neid expects Dzsenifer Marozsan to play, but wouldn’t commit to the midfielder starting. … Sundhage said she has yet to determine her starting lineup, when asked if she expects to make changes. … The winner will travel to Montreal to face the winner of France versus South Korea on Friday.

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