Where is the German women’s team heading? This is a question that many fans will surely have asked themselves after the team’s quarter-finals at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France. While Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s team was remarkable for their absence from last spring’s international tournaments, they were impressed when they took part in this year’s Algarve Cup for the first time in five years.
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg speaks about the team upheavals, changes in women’s football, and how the top of the game is becoming increasingly competitive.
What do you say about your team’s performance at Algarve Cup?
Although we only played two games, we are very happy with the Algarve Cup for various reasons. We had perfect conditions, a wonderful hotel, and fantastic training opportunities. The games against Sweden and Norway were against opponents who are not far from the world rankings.
The fact that we were able to use all of our players except for one goalkeeper helped make both the team and the coaching team happy. After not seeing each other for five months, we found our game relatively quickly and would like to strengthen and refine it for the future.
Critics claim that Germany has lost touch. Is that really the case?
This is a legitimate question and it is important to answer it objectively. If you are second in the world rankings, you cannot say that Germany has slowed down. We deliberately messed up the staff before the World Cup, and we also had a new coaching team that only had five months to coordinate before the World Cup.
Although it was not easy, we reached the quarter-finals and achieved very satisfactory results before. We played very good football at times, introduced some talented young players and ultimately lost a very close game with 1: 2. We just have to admit that our opponents were really, really good that day.
what is Germany’s Position In Women’s Football?
I still think we are the best in the world, which means that we are among the best in Europe. But I can also see – and I’m quite proud of it – that international women’s football has come this far. It will be much more difficult for Germany and other countries to win trophies. The United States may still be an exception to this rule, but even it must prove whether it can deal with radical changes in the coming years.
They will soon lose a lot of outstanding players as a truly remarkable generation ends their careers. It will be exciting to see how the United States will develop. I see the world’s best teams moving closer together. We always wanted that in international women’s football. The standard at the World Cup fully reflected this.
Would you say that Germany has so much talent that as soon as one player hangs up their boots, another moves up to replace them?
It would be fantastic if a talented youngster could substitute a player in the same way at the end of his career, but that’s not realistic. The experience of established players is particularly evident in tournaments. We just didn’t have that experience at the last World Cup. In fact, we had 15 players making their competitive debut, and that was reflected in the team’s processes. I think we have good prospects for the next EUROs and the World Cup – if we can keep the team together as it has now emerged.
We also need experienced players like Alex Popp, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Melanie Leupolz and Sara Dabritz who are now taking on more responsibilities that they didn’t have to worry about before. We have really talented players, but they have to grow into their responsibilities carefully. That can only happen if we can play as many tournaments as possible. Being very well positioned in terms of youth development helps us. It will be a little more difficult this year, but no matter what happens, we will accept the situation and use it to support our development.
What has made the team so strong in recent years?
The image they have cultivated for their development in women’s football. This country, which has dominated the game of women for decades, has a huge pool of talented girls who play football but also have a great personality. Whether you like it or not, it’s a little bit of that “America first” idea. Their mentality and understanding of the world is about daring to do things and express themselves – and even go out on the pitch and say, “We’ll win this match.”
I see players who want to have the ball in every phase of the game, who take responsibility and who are mentally able to react quickly to a variety of situations. I don’t think they always played the best football, but when you add up all the success factors that are needed to win titles, they are far ahead of any other country – especially at the last World Cup, so they deserve the trophy pick up.
Always wanting to win – isn’t that also a large part of the German mentality?
It is also part of the DNA that the Germans have. The difference is simply that the players must have grown up with this attitude – and that was so obvious to the US World Cup team.
There were so many players on this site with a lot of experience, not only in terms of the number of international matches, tournaments or trophies but also in terms of their position within society. Some of them play a completely different role and take on other tasks outside the field. This naturally helps them to develop a certain image of themselves and their own strengths.
As a former German international and now head coach, you have witnessed the changes in women’s football up close?
The biggest milestone is that many more countries are interested in women’s football and have implemented all types of projects. The social picture has changed. Today girls are no longer generally asked how they got started playing football. That is one of the measurable factors. Another milestone is the increasing professionalization of sport. When I see the opportunities that international players have today … come to me and say, “I can play there, there and there.”
I still remember how Silvia Neid and I thought as a young player: “If we could at least become semi-professional at some point in our lives, how nice would that be?” [laughs] Today’s top players are professionals and well-trained competitive athletes. They exercise six or seven times a week and carefully adjust their surroundings to focus on performance.
In addition to sportiness, our players also pay attention to issues such as lifestyle, nutrition and relaxation. So much has happened and I have to say it’s great to be a witness and to be part of it. The challenge is to adapt to these changes. Especially when it comes to pressure, we have to create the freedom that we used to take for granted. Players can only unlock their performance if they have found the right balance.