Inka Grings scored a remarkable 64 goals in 96 appearances for the German national team and won back-to-back titles at the 2005 and 2009 UEFA Women’s EUROs. Her eye for goal was key to Germany’s success and led to her finishing as top scorer at both tournaments. However, at next year’s continental showdown in Sweden, the striker will play no part, having stepped down from international duty in July 2012.
“It was important for me to play at the World Cup [in 2011],” Grings told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “After we got knocked out, I had a chat with the coach that same evening. We said we both needed a bit of distance before coming to a final decision.
“We agreed that I would play in the European qualifiers and that we’d sort everything else out in another open and honest conversation," she continued. "And that’s how it happened. I’d made up my mind. I was lucky enough to play at two European Championships. They were my tournaments, where I won everything. I thought, ‘if not now, then when is the best time to make a clean break from the national team?’”
The 34-year-old wore Germany’s colours for 16 years and can look back on countless unforgettable moments, even if winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ is not one of them.
“I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, I’ve been at fantastic tournaments and got to know a lot of great people. I think I’ve been to almost every country in the world, which is an achievement in itself,” said Grings.
“I couldn’t have done it without the people in the national set-up, who’ve shaped my career and helped me develop. There are a lot of games and players that I’ll remember. It’s incredibly difficult to try to single out special situations or matches, as too much has happened in 16 years to be able to do that.”
Following next summer’s Women's EURO as a spectator will be a new experience altogether for Grings, yet she shows no sign of melancholy. The good-natured striker is enjoying her time at FC Zurich and is already looking to the future.
Grings may only have been lacing her boots in the Swiss metropolis since 2011, but her killer instinct has already made her an integral part of the team. She is currently top scorer in the Swiss Nationalliga A with 22 goals.
“I have no regrets about coming here. I’d even go as far to say as it’s done me a lot of good, both in personal and sporting terms," she said. "The professionalism at FC Zurich is incredible, whether it be among the coaching staff or during the training sessions. And living abroad is something I’d never done before. I’m very happy to be here and am relaxed about what the future holds.”
Whatever Grings' next steps may be, they are not likely to take her away from the game, as she was “born for football” and it is where she “feels best and most secure”. Whatever plans the striker may have for herself, she also takes a keen interest in the next generation of German players, one of whom stands out in particular.
“I follow the U-20 team as well as the senior side and, among others, I’m in regular contact with Alexandra Popp, who I’m guiding a little bit," said Grings, who believes the starlet has the potential to be a future FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.
"Right now I’m absolutely convinced that she is one of a small minority who have a great future ahead of them, as long as she continues as she has been and keeps her feet on the ground. If she works hard, she has all the necessary attributes to become a top-class striker.”
But for now, and with no German players shortlisted for the 2012 award, Grings insists there can only be one winner at the forthcoming ceremony on 7 January 2013 in Zurich.
“For me it’s very difficult to judge players’ performances, because I only saw them up close at the World Cup," she said as the conversation concluded. "But given her displays at the Olympics [in 2012] and the World Cup last year, it has to be Abby Wambach."