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Football - 28. April 2007.

Germany plagued by loss of form

Germany plagued by loss of form
(FIFA.com) 28 Mar 2007

Germany's women's team hold a frank half-time discussion during their 1-0 defeat to Italy in the Algarve Cup on 14 March 2007. Germany's women's team hold a frank half-time discussion during their 1-0 defeat to Italy in the Algarve Cup on 14 March 2007.
(FIFA.com)
Seasoned observers of the women's game are accustomed to surprises, but even the experts were taken aback by Germany's dismal showing at the recent Algarve Cup.

The world and European champions, a seemingly invincible proposition in recent years, muddled from one poor performance to the next, opening with a 2-1 defeat against Norway before losing to France by the only goal of the game. A 3-0 victory over a weakened Denmark side provided only partial redemption, before the gloom returned in a bitter 1-0 reverse against Italy, a team marooned outside the world top ten.

Germany won the annual tournament in the south of Portugal last year, but finished a disappointing eighth this time and slid from top spot to second in the new FIFA World Rankings.

"It was a magnificent end to a magnificent tournament," Germany's most-capped international Birgit Prinz observed, bitter sarcasm replacing her customary good humour. Defeat to the Italians had patently drained the last vestiges of bonhomie from the three-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.

Even so, Prinz insisted all was not lost. "You have to look at it from a number of points or view. We all know where it's going wrong. A lot of it was very poor, but we had some good ideas too. If you spend the game passing to the opposition, you end up with a lot more running to do, and that didn't make it easier. But we were a little unlucky from time to time, or we came up inches short. Whatever, we've spent enough time talking about it now."

Back in December, the players were handed a comprehensive and tailored mid-season fitness programme by coach Dr Norbert Stein, but one or two pivotal personalities appear to have fallen short or misinterpreted the winter training schedule. The physical deficit was compounded by a pronounced lack of footballing sharpness, so that only a clutch of players emerged with their reputations enhanced, among them Melanie Behringer, Babett Peters and Anja Mittag.

Overall, the players were confronted with the sobering realisation that winning in modern women's football involves renewed commitment to hard physical work. "It all has to fit together. If so, the wheels turn, but otherwise, they don't," coach Silvia Neid reflected.

Farewell to Steffi Jones
Steffi Jones, a tower of strength for her country in recent years, drew her own conclusions from the tournament a couple of weeks later and announced her retirement from the international scene, arguing that injury problems indicated she could no longer accommodate the increasing demands of the sport.

"I've thoroughly reflected on this difficult decision," the 1. FFC Frankfurt stalwart explained. "My body has given me signals that I may no longer be in a position to match the standards I expect from myself in international terms, which is to continue playing at the highest level with an eye on the 2007 World Cup."

The German camp is also keeping a watching brief on a number of injured players, including No1 keeper Silke Rottenberg, currently out of action with cruciate ligament damage sustained at January's four-nation tournament in China. The shot-stopper hopes to be fully fit and in form by the time the World Cup comes around.

German team coach Silvia Neid cuts an unhappy figure as she looks on from the sidelines during the Algarve Cup final between USA and Denmark on 14 March in Vila Real San Antonio.
German team coach Silvia Neid cuts an unhappy figure as she looks on from the sidelines during the Algarve Cup final between USA and Denmark on 14 March in Vila Real San Antonio.
(FIFA.com)
Must do better
The global showdown is still a few months away, but the defending champions know they rapidly need to get back on course, as their UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign opens on 12 April in Wattenscheid against the fast-improving Netherlands. Despite the toughness of the task on paper, Neid insisted her players would have upped their game by the crucial date.

The national coach personally ran the rule over some of her star performers at last Sunday's top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash between 1. FFC Frankfurt and FCR 2001 Duisburg. Prinz appeared committed and eager, combining well in attack with international team-mates Petra Wimbersky and Sandra Smisek.

Neid was equally pleased with the previously out-of-sorts Renate Lingor, third in the vote for FIFA World Player of the Year 2006. "She was very resolute and committed, despite one or two misplaced passes," the coach commented to FIFA.com.

A number of the squad will contest one further Bundesliga matchday and the German Cup semi-finals before the showdown against the Netherlands. Neid remains convinced her most important players will continue to pick up form as the fallen favourites look to turn the corner in time for the FIFA Women's World Cup

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