"Good things come in threes" is something you might expect to hear from Birgit Prinz. This is, after all, the third year running the German striker has made the short-list of three stars who are up for the coveted title of "FIFA World Player of the Year". Indeed, the princess of German football is defending her title this year. After finishing runner-up behind American Mia Hamm in 2002, 27-year-old Prinz ascended to the top of the podium last year.
Birgit Prinz is without doubt one of the best strikers in the world. Last year, the lethal attacker won everything there was to win, her crowning achievement coming in October 2003 when Germany won the FIFA Women's World Cup in the USA. On top of her winner's medal, Prinz earned a host of other awards and accolades. Not only did she convincingly win the Golden Boot for her seven goals in the tournament, she was also voted the tournament's best player overall, and was duly awarded the Golden Ball. Ever modest, Prinz tries not to place too much value on such awards: "I was thrilled to win the trophies for top goalscorer and best player, but Germany lifting the World Cup was far more important."
A look at Prinz's honours since she started her international career in 1994, aged just 16, makes for impressive reading indeed. Within a year, the precocious young talent had pocketed a runners-up medal from the FIFA Women's World Cup. In 1995, 1997 and 2001 Germany won the European Championship and in 2000, Prinz added a bronze medal from the Sydney Olympics to her trophy cabinet. That is not to mention six years as Bundesliga champion, seven German Cup winner's medals and the WUSA title with American club Carolina Courage in 2002.
The European and world champion has now achieved almost everything there is to achieve on the world stage. In fact, the only medal missing from her trophy cabinet is Olympic Gold, and she and her teammates were expected to pick up that up this summer in Athens. As reigning world champions, the German girls were clear favourites in Greece, but a semi-final defeat to eventual Gold medalists U.S.A. consigned them to yet another bronze medal play-off, which they duly won by seeing off the challenge of Sweden.
Prinz shared top spot on the goalscorers' list with Brazil's Cristiane and even scored four times in a group game against China, but despite five goals in five matches, Gold was to elude her again.
Even without that Olympic Gold, this year can be seen as a success for Germany's four-time player of the year. She has scored 14 goals in 14 internationals, and increased her total tally for the national team to 79, just four goals behind the current German record holder, Prinz's former teammate Heidi Mohr.
For the fourth year running, Birgit Prinz was acclaimed as Germany's Player of the Year. Following her stint abroad in the US Professional League WUSA, she has been back in Germany playing for 1. FFC Frankfurt since last autumn. Last season, her club finished runners-up behind Turbine Potsdam, but this year they are in the driving seat once again. A hatful of goals from you-know-who has helped shoot them to the top of the table.
Despite her unbroken success, Prinz insists she has not grown weary of the beautiful game. "I am far from exhausting my potential," she remarks, and looks forward to causing mayhem in opposing penalty areas for many years to come. Her next challenge is just around the corner: the European Championship in England in 2005, where the German team is defending its title.