FRANKFURT, Germany -- When Germany's women played their
first international soccer game 25 years ago, school kids were
bused in to fill the stands and the public was at best bemused by
Nobody is laughing now. Germany is the reigning world and
European champion, the games are broadcast live on national
television, the stadiums are full and the women command as much
respect as their male colleagues.
The tone was set in that first game, when women's games lasted
80 minutes, 10 minutes shorter than men's, with Germany beating
Switzerland 5-1 in Koblenz.
"It was a surprisingly good game," recalled Gero Bisanz, who
was talked into being the first women's coach although he didn't
really want the job. One columnist even compared one of Germany's
players (Birgit Bormann) to star winger Pierre Littbarski.
The present team has a direct link to that group of pioneers --
current coach Silvia Neid was an 18-year-old player then and came
off the bench to score two goals.
"Those players made it possible for women's soccer to enjoy so
much respect now," Neid said ahead of celebrations to mark the
event in August.
Germany's women quickly developed into a world power along the
lines of the men, who have three World Cup titles. A professional
league has been running since 2001.
Ranked No. 2 behind the United States in the latest FIFA
rankings, Germany has six European titles and two Olympic bronze
medals since the modest beginnings a quarter century ago.
The biggest success came four years ago when Germany's women won
their first World Cup title. At this year's tournament, Germany
could make it two in a row, and then go after a trio in 2011 at
After staging a hugely successful men's World Cup in 2006,
Germany is bidding for the next women's tournament in 2011.
The Germans, in Group A with Argentina, Japan and England, are
also eager to wipe out the blot of finishing only eighth in this
summer's Algarve Cup in Portugal, a prestigious tournament that
draws the best teams in the world.
Germany's top star is forward Birgit Prinz, twice FIFA's player
of the year and the German captain, with nearly 170 caps and more than
Sandra Smisek, who is a teammate on the FFC Frankfurt team, also has more than 100 appearances.
"I think we have a very good balance between young and older
players," Neid said. "For each position there are at least two
players, because we have many players who are very versatile."
While the lanky Prinz often acts as anchor in the attack, she
can move laterally and run down the wings, opening space for other
"Our game plans call for a lot of rotation up front," Neid
said. "My players are so schooled that they can play any position
in the attack."
In the midfield, Neid can count on the experience of Renate
Lingor and Kerstin Garefrekes, who have more than 200 appearances
Then there is the 19-year-old Fatmire Bajramaj, who caught
attention with deft moves in recent games.
"We have a lot of possibilities in midfield as far as the
lineup is concerned," Neid said. "We have players with
intelligence, with skill and with a lot of offensive potential."
And a lot of solidarity in defense.
Ariane Hingst, Sandra Minnert and Kerstin Stegemann bring the
experience of nearly 450 international games between them.
"You can really depend on those three. They bring so much
routine, they always know what to expect," Neid said.
In goal, Neid has decided to go with Nadine Angerer, 28, rather
than with 35-year-old Silke Rottenberg, who has three times as many
appearances at 123. But Rottenberg, the winning keeper in the 2003
World Cup, has battled injuries this year.
"We have great players in this position as well," Neid said.
"We have two world-class goalkeepers who would be the envy of many
"I am firmly convinced that we are going to the World Cup with
the best possible roster that gives us a lot of variation
possibilities, and with top-fit and highly motivated players."