With the Women’s World Cup just days away, we’re taking an in-depth look at the five perceived favorites by examining their strengths, weaknesses, and title prospects. Next up is Germany, a team that some are oddly discounting.
- FIFA ranking: No. 2
- Best World Cup finish: Champion (2003 and 2007)
- Manager: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg
What you need to know
It’s a strange time for the reigning Olympic champion.
An early ouster at Euro 2017, followed by a poor showing at the SheBelieves Cup last year, saw former manager Steffi Jones sent packing. After tiding things over with an interim appointment, the German federation was finally able to procure the services of Voss-Tecklenburg, who won 125 caps with the national team during her playing days.
That the 51-year-old only assumed control of the side in November is the cause of much angst for Germany supporters, as she hasn’t been afforded much time to fine-tune the team. And without the reliable old guard – former mainstays like Melanie Behringer, Anja Mittag, and Simone Laudehr are no longer in the fold – Voss-Tecklenburg has needed to adapt quickly.
Still, despite those well-founded concerns, it shouldn’t be overlooked that this remains one of the most talented teams in the tournament. The Germans are ranked No. 2 in the world for a reason. Led by unstoppable Lyon playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan, Germany is arriving in France on the back of an unbeaten 2019, counting wins over the French and Swedes, and a draw with Japan, among its standout results.
“We want to re-establish ourselves at the top of the game,” Voss-Tecklenburg recently told DW Sports. “It’s a great challenge. International women’s football has developed hugely. There are far more teams playing at the top level today. … We have to face that fact and work our way through the process.”
Success on the biggest stage would be a perfect way to kick-start that process.
Group stage outlook
The overwhelming favorite to top Group B, Germany should, at the very least, be tested by a skillful Spain squad and a resolute Chinese team; the former can frustrate opponents with its methodical possession-based style, while China, though not boasting much in the way of explosive attacking talent, will be difficult to break down.
Meanwhile, a meeting with South Africa in the final match of the round should prove a nice confidence booster for Marozsan and Co. heading into the knockout stages. Banyana Banyana haven’t won a game in 2019.
It’s imperative that Germany claims the group, too. A second-place finish would almost definitely mean clashing with the United States in the round of 16. Any team with title aspirations in France will likely need to go through the Americans at some point, but putting that matchup off until as late as possible is ideal.
Projected starting XI
Key player: Dzsenifer Marozsan
Even if there are questions elsewhere within the squad, Germany knows one thing for certain: Marozsan is one of the best get-out-of-jail-free cards in women’s football. The 27-year-old is entering the World Cup in the prime of her career. She’s also fully healthy – unlike four years ago in Canada, when she was nursing an ailment – and is coming off another Champions League title.
Twice named the top player in the French league – beating out fellow superstars Ada Hegerberg and Eugenie Le Sommer in the process – Marozsan has an uncanny ability to slice open defenses. Her exquisite first touch puts her on the offensive right away, allowing her to find teammates in dangerous positions with perfect passes.
And if that doesn’t work, she can just do it all herself.
Marozsan has already scored one massive goal for Germany in an international final – the Olympic gold medal game in 2016 – and opened the scoring in the aforementioned Champions League final last month. She’s the prototypical big-game player, and there would be no bigger stage than the World Cup final, which is set for the familiar surroundings of Lyon on July 7.
Breakout star: Lea Schuller
Lea Schuller hasn’t wasted any time making a name for herself.
With Germany desperate to find an immediate replacement for longtime stalwart Mittag, who retired from the national team in 2017, Schuller has stepped up and filled the void. The 21-year-old forward, who plays her club football for SGS Essen, has already found the net eight times in just 12 matches for the Germans, including an incredible four-goal performance in a World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic last year.
Marozsan setting up Schuller in front of goal should be a staple of the German attack at this summer’s tournament.
Fans should be happy if …
As is always the case for the two-time world champion, the expectation is to return home with the trophy in tow – recent upheaval in the squad and on the touchline be damned. Nothing less than another title will do.
Defensive concerns could scupper those lofty goals – a rotating cast of inexperienced players have featured in central defense recently – but with Marozsan back at her best in 2019, there’s no reason she can’t inspire this exciting attacking unit to its first World Cup triumph since 2007.