It’s been a wonderful summer of German international success. Jogi Löw left many of his veteran internationals at home, bringing a less experienced squad to Russia and was still able to deliver a first Confederations Cup championship to the German trophy cabinet. A few days earlier, in Poland. the German U21s led by Stefan Kuntz captured the European championship, the second time the U21s had earned that distinction.
Now the spotlight shifts to the German women’s national team who head to the Netherlands for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euros tournament that begins next week. Steffi Jones’ squad will be looking to repeat the success of four years ago in Sweden, when Anna Mittag’s second half goal saw the German women defeat Norway to keep their iron grip on the trophy. As the world’s number two ranked side, the Germans are looked at as one of the favorites at the 16 nation competition, but will certainly have challengers looking to break German hegemony.
The German Frauen breezed through qualifying, winning all eight of their matches and didn’t even concede in those 720 minutes. There were only two times where the Germans won 1-0. Group opponents Russia were in their Qualifying group and Germany strolled to victories 2-0 at home and 4-0 away. The side had a whopping 16 different scorers in qualifying, with striker Alexandra Popp leading the way with five goals.
There is significant turnover when comparing this squad to the 2013 edition. Six players were named to the UEFA’s squad of the tournament back in 2013 and only two of them, Lena Goeßling and Dzsenifer Marozsan. are returning for this year’s edition.
Goalkeepers: Almuth Schult (Wolfsburg), Laura Benkarth (SC Freiburg), Lisa Weiss (SGS Essen)
Schult played six of the qualifiers and Weiss played the other two. As mentioned earlier, the team didn’t concede at all in the eight matches, so both are clearly capable. In their friendly warm-up on July 4th against Brazil, Schult was given the start and played all 90 minutes of the 3-1 win. However she was caught in possession by Ludmila, who punished the mistake for Brazil’s only goal. So Steffi Jones has a bit of a decision before Germany’s opener on July 17 against Sweden.
Defenders: Josephine Henning (Olympique Lyon-France), Kathrin Hendrich (FFC Frankfurt), Leonie Maier (Bayern Munich), Babett Peter (Wolfsburg), Kristin Demann (TSG Hoffenheim), Carolin Simon (SC Freiburg), Anna Blässe (Wolfsburg), Isabel Kerschowski (Wolfsburg)
In the Brazil friendly, Germany started out with four defenders (Simon, Peter, Demann, Blässe), but three were substituted in, so most everyone got some experience. Further proof of this is that seven of the eight defenders played in multiple qualifiers, as only Simon didn’t earn an appearance. So we could see Jones utilize different players based on matchups.
Midfielders: Lena Goeßling (Wolfsburg), Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyon- France), Sara Däbritz (Bayern Munich), Sara Doorsoun (SGS Essen), Linda Dallmann (SGS Essen), Lina Magull (SC Freiburg), Tabea Kemme (Turbine Potsdam)
Marozsan will captain the side and anchor the midfield. But a large question mark will be with Goeßling, who made just seven appearances this season due to injury. If the 31-year-old is back to top health, the German midfield will be even stronger and more dangerous. Another key will be with Däbritz, who often plays as a defensive midfielder. However she has shown she can be an additional threat going forward, she scored nine goals in the 2015-16 season for Bayern Munich, tying her with Marozsan for 6th place in the Frauen Bundesliga.
Attackers: Mandy Islacker (FFC Frankfurt), Anja Mittag (Rosengard- Sweden), Lena Petermann (SC Freiburg), Svenja Huth (Turbine Potsdam), Hasret Kayikci (SC Freiburg)
There is a glaring omission from the list, as Popp was not selected, and she recently posted a picture on her Twitter account following a surgery to repair her left knee. The loss of the talented attacker will be felt, as she scored five goals in the four qualifying group matches. While Mittag will be relied on for her experience, it will be key to finding the right strike partner for her. Kayikci and Huth were given the first shot at that role, both starting against Brazil. Kayicki played the entire match, scoring the side’s second goal, while seeing two other shots come off the post. But Islacker cannot be ignored, as she was the leading scorer in this season for Frankfurt, scoring 19 goals in her 19 appearances.
The Germans were placed in Group B, alongside Sweden, Italy, and Russia, playing them in that order. The biggest match will be against the Swedes, who have a great women’s footballing history and an excellent manager in Pia Sundhage. The side has plenty of attacking talent with Lotta Schelin bringing the experience and Kosovare Asllani bringing the flair. The defense is to be anchored by Wolfsburg’s Nilla Fischer. The 32-year-old just had her best season in Germany, as she scored five goals in 21 starts as the Wolves won the league. With Germany and Sweden being the highest ranked sides, the match in Breda will likely decide who wins this group.
The next match will be against the Italians, a side who is making their 11th appearance at the continental event, tied with Norway for the most of any side represented in the event. The Italians were runners-up in Group 6 behind Switzerland, winning six and losing two. Cristiana Girelli was there leading scorer. The striker who plays for Brescia scored six goals in qualifying. Another player to look out for is striker Melania Gabbiadini, who was named to the Team of the Tournament for the 2013 Euros. Goalkeeper Laura Giuliani could be someone Frauen Bundesliga followers know, as she spent last season as the number two goalkeeper for Freiburg.
The final group match will be against the Russians, who at 25th, have the lowest FIFA ranking of any team in the group. The Russians reached the tournament as runners-up in Germany’s group, winning four, drawing two and losing both their matches against Germany. The Russian side conceded 2/3 of their goals in matches against Germany, giving up just three to the rest of the group. The attack was very balanced for the Russians, with four different players leading the way with two goals apiece. In their warm-up matches last month versus Serbia, the Russians won both at home 5-2 and 2-0. Elena Danilova scored 4 of the team’s goals, and the 30-year-old will be expected to help shoulder the goal-scoring load.
The Knockout Stages
Should the Germans advance through the group stage, they’d face one of the two advancing sides from Group A, consisting of the hosts Dutch side, Denmark, Norway, and Belgium. The Dutch have been steadily improving, reaching the last World Cup for the first time in their history, and then advancing out of the group stage while there. The Danes haven’t been looking so good recently, losing both their friendlies, 2-1 away to England, and again 4-2 away to Austria, But this was after finishing in third in this year’s Algarve Cup in Portugal, so they’re still a dangerous side, particularly when Wolfsburg striker Pernille Harder is scoring goals. She averages slightly more than a goal every two games for the national team. Norway, is also dangerous, led by Ada Hegerberg, who was named last year’s Best Women’s player in Europe by UEFA.
Beyond that, dangers exist in the English and French sides who are currently ranked as the fifth and third best teams in the world respectively. In this year’s She Believes Cup held in March in the United States, Germany was held to a tough 0-0 draw against the French, and scraped past England 1-0 thanks to Anna Mittag’s goal.
While Germany will certainly be missing the goal scoring abilities of Popp, there is depth that could help see Steffi Jones’ side lift the European Championship trophy for the seventh consecutive time. However it’s far from certain and the competition, particularly in the knockout stages, may be stronger than in previous competitions. Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if the German women can win the Women’s Euros and continue the narrative of the nation’s footballing dominance that has been so apparent this summer on the international stage.