The seniors are reigning world and European champions, so it comes as no surprise to find the youngest German women's national team rated among the favourites for the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup from 28 October to 16 November 2008 in New Zealand. Germany is justifiably regarded as setting gold standards for the global women's game in terms of youth development, a reputation the Europeans will be keen to underscore this autumn.
The current U-17 crop undoubtedly rates as one of the strongest ever to emerge at this level from organised women's football in Germany. Many experts see powerful parallels with the 1988 generation, from whose ranks the likes of Fatmire Bajramaj, Celia Okoyino da Mbabi and Babett Peter have gone on to achieve established international status.
Coach Ralf Peter is surely right in thinking his current charges will be there or thereabouts when it comes to handing out the medals in New Zealand, as their convincing progress through a four-team qualifying tournament on home soil in mid-April amply demonstrated. The Germans showed conviction and remarkable composure in dealing with quality opposition, qualifying with supreme ease for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and the European finals in Nyon, Switzerland, which they went on to win.
Not unexpectedly, the Germans cruised through the UEFA U-17 Women's European Championship preliminary qualifying round with commanding victories over Israel (8-0), Bulgaria (10-0) and Norway (6-1). Peter's charges then made the most of home advantage in Essen and Bottrop, defeating Switzerland (4-0), Poland (3-0) and Sweden (4-1) to book places at both the continental and world finals. At the final phase of the European Championship in Nyon, victories over Denmark (1-0) and France (3-0) propelled Germany to the top of the podium and strengthened their claim to the tag of favourites at New Zealand 2008.
Ralf Peter was hired by the German FA (DFB) in August 2001 and has taken charge of several youth teams since then. The 46-year-old was previously a Niederrhein regional association coach for two years, and spent four seasons as head of youth at Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach.
The spine of the German team is formed by keeper Anna Felicitas Sarholz (Turbine Potsdam), defender Inka Wesely (SG Essen-Schonebeck), midfielders Dszenifer Marozsan (FC Saarbrucken) and Lynn Mester (Westfalia Osterwick), and prolific goal-getters Alexandra Popp (FCR Duisburg) and Turid Knaak. Although she is a full year younger than most of the squad, Ivana Rudelic of Bayern Munich rates as a prodigious talent who is on the verge of a major breakthrough.
"We have unbelievable potential in our attack. New Zealand will be a very important experience for our prospective players," Ralf Peter, Germany coach.