Placed third at the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year 2006 behind Brazil's Marta and Kristine Lilly of the USA, 31-year-old midfielder Renate Lingor is one of the most experienced players in a German team aiming to retain its world title at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007. spoke with her at the FIFA World Player Gala. Victory in the UEFA Cup final with FFC Frankfurt rounded-off a successful year for you. Personally how do you rate 2006?
Renate Lingor:
I had a number of setbacks due to injury but always managed to come back from them, so I'd have to say it was a good year overall. At club level we achieved our aims, and the national side won the Algarve Cup, so I can be quite satisfied.

What does it mean to you to be voted one of the best three players in the world?
First and foremost, I feel proud. It's a great honour for me, one I'd never have expected. I'm lucky enough to play for two top-class sides, namely my club FFC Frankfurt and the German national team. I'm happy to be able to represent these sides here as well. 

What do you think of your fellow nominees?
Marta has superb technique. She is great on the ball and an exceptional player. As for Kristine Lilly, anyone who has held down a place in the starting line-up of such a good team for such a long time deserves to be on top of the pile at least once.

Tell us a little about your early footballing career.
At first, I wasn't able to compete physically, and it took me a long time to break into the national team. My coach told me it would take more than pure talent to compete at international level. That was something which took me a while to understand.

Who helped you then?
I had good coaches right from the start. In the national team, Tina Theune-Meyer warned me I had to work hard if I wasn't to remain an eternal under-achiever. My breakthrough came at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

How has the women's game changed over the years?
It's become more athletic. There use to be a huge difference in standards internationally and results were a lot more one-sided. Nowadays, any team in the top 20 has a chance against any other. The overall standard has improved, and will hopefully continue to improve in the years to come. 

What effect did winning the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 have on you and on the women's game in Germany as a whole?
Women's football has gradually gained recognition. Attendances are very good - the stadia may be a bit smaller, but nonetheless they're often sold-out. We get average crowds of 15,000. There's a real resonance there, and we're getting respect for what we achieve.

What are you hoping at achieve at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007?
We weren't as dominant as expected in qualifying. There's still a lot of work to do if we want to compete at the highest level. As world champions, you're always looking to defend your title of course. Our minimum goal has to be the last four. After that, anything is possible.

You are 31 now. Will this World Cup be your last major tournament?
It all depends on my fitness. I'd love to play at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

You have completed a degree in sports science and are working for the German Football Association's school football programme. Will that be your new career when you hang up your boots?
I haven't decided yet. I've got all my licenses now, apart from football instructor. That's a lot of fun, but so is the work with the school children. You can do a lot in the schools in Germany. The World Cup sparked a real wave of euphoria. You can get through to a lot of kids now and get them to exercise more by playing football.

What are your goals for 2007?
My first aim is to get properly fit again. After that, I want to achieve the rest of the goals we've set for the season at the club, then head off to China well-prepared for the World Cup.