For English football fans, there’s no bigger rival than Germany, with decades of history between the two nations.
However, for Lioness Jess Carter, the match brings up very different feelings as she is currently dating Germany star Ann-Katrin Berger.
The couple, who got together when reuniting at Chelsea in 2019, were on opposing sides in the 2022 Euros final, where the Lionesses crushed Germany to win the title.
The two became firm and platonic friends are meeting while playing for Birmingham in 2016, with the couple eventually sharing a flat together.
The English defender had only previously been in a relationship with men, and despite the pair sharing undeniable chemistry, she wasn’t sure what was going on at first.
Teammates at Chelsea but rivals on the international stage, goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger guards the sticks for Germany while the versatile Jess Carter is a crucial part of England’s stellar squad
The pair got together after reuniting at Chelsea in 2019, with romance soon blossoming despite Jess’ initial confusion about her feelings
‘I had broken up with my boyfriend when I moved in, but as far as I knew I was straight,’ Carter told The Guardian last year of their blossoming relationship.
But after organising a date (which Carter initially thought was just as friends), and then taking the plunge by initiating a kiss while the pair were watching a movie at home, Berger had well and truly convinced her Chelsea teammate that the spark was real. And they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Berger has had to overcome two bouts of thyroid cancer since the pair got together, but they are stronger than ever.
And the tables have certainly turned since Carter had to be subtly coaxed into understanding her feelings for Berger. Now it’s the English international who is loud and proud for the world to see.
‘I think I was – and probably still am – more comfortable than Ann is with publicising our relationship, but that is just because Ann is a very private person whereas I am more of a ‘the whole world could know and I wouldn’t really care’ kind of person,’ Carter said in 2021.
Carter is a star defender for the Lionesses
‘Over time and because I will say whatever, she has kind of got used to it and goes with it. By seeing that it is normal and you can be whoever you want to be … (it) shows younger people that it is okay to be you.’
Remarkably, Berger – who has won three Women’s Super League titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups with Chelsea since joining in January 2019 – returned to action just over a month after being diagnosed with cancer as she played in the Blues’ WSL clash against Manchester City.
The 32-year-old has also played for PSG and Birmingham during her career and was part of Germany’s squad for Euro 2022 last summer.
Following her stunning performance on Thursday night, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes was full of praise.
‘Berger thrives in big moments,’ she said. ‘She’s done that her entire career. She’s probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with, so I felt really confident going into the penalty shootout, even if I didn’t look it.
Remarkably, Berger – who has won three Women’s Super League titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups with Chelsea since joining in January 2019 – returned to action just over a month after being diagnosed with cancer as she played in the Blues’ WSL clash against Manchester City
Carter (right) and Berger (left) are partners and their heroics come months after Berger was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer for a second time, with the pair battling through it side-by-side
‘Every day (in training), everyone always hates going up against her. I felt this was her moment after everything she has gone through.’
The German reflected on her diagnosis and battle with cancer earlier this year with BBC Sport , but insisted the challenges she has faced has made her a stronger person.
‘To be at a Euros [when] nobody knew then, the emotion of the Euros took the negative part away from my brain,’ she recalled.
‘It was a good year. I didn’t let my illness come across and say “hey, you shouldn’t have a good year because I’m back again”.’
Berger also revealed she is keen to discuss her cancer diagnosis, despite it often being a taboo subject for many people.
She added: ‘I actually quite like to talk about it. It’s a topic nobody likes to talk about but in my position I think I can help people.
‘I’m not sitting here saying everything was easy, because it’s not, but whatever your main focus is – and mine was football – you can achieve everything you want to.
‘That’s why I think it’s really important for me to be open. I did it, so why can’t everyone else?’