Young, modest and above all talented, 16-year-old Lena Petermann was one of Germany's top performers en route to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago, notching eight goals to finish as leading scorer in European Zone qualifying. "I wasn't expecting that, but you need a good team around you to be able to pick each other out and execute match tactics," said Lena during an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "If your team-mates can do that, it it makes it a lot easier to score goals
After watching their U-20 colleagues collect the world title on home soil just a few weeks ago, the Germany U-17 side are now hoping for similar success in the Caribbean. "We can't wait. It's a beautiful place to hold a tournament, but we won't have much time to relax. We're not allowed to lie in the sun for too long, but I'm sure we'll find an hour or two for a walk on the beach. We had an orientation course last week and we're flying to Florida a week before the tournament for a training camp and then heading over to the Caribbean on 1 September."
In order to take part in the tournament and the preparatory courses, the Year 11 student has had to take five weeks off school. Thankfully, that did not prove a problem as football is not the sole focus of the trip. "We have lessons during the tournament too, two hours per day," she explained. Despite her fascinating lifestyle, Petermann is not one to boast about her achievements to her peers. In fact, some of her class-mates are blissfully unaware of her success on the football field. "They'd be happy for me. I played with the [Hamburg] boys for nine years and I know a lot of them well from class."
Born in Cuxhaven, northern Germany, Lena has been with Hamburg since 2009 and trains with the Women's Bundesliga side every day except for Wednesdays, when she does her individual training. "We signed Lena with a view to the future," HSV women's coach Achim Feifel told FIFA.com. "She's developed in leaps and bounds over the past year. We saw her potential and we're hoping to profit from it in the future. At Bundesliga level it's important to be robust enough to compete with the other players, and Lena has those kinds of qualities. Now it's important for her to take the next step. It was remarkable how quickly she established herself in the first team last season. Her talent is unquestionable."
Despite all the praise, Petermann remains modest and knows there is still plenty for her to improve upon. "Because of my height I'm fairly good in the air and I'll win most 50-50 balls, but I need to work on my left foot and improve my pace."
Due to her demanding training programme, Lena does not have much time for other hobbies, especially after her 90 minute journey into training every day. "I like playing tennis when I have a bit of free time, but only for fun."
It remains to be seen whether the Germany U-17s can claim the coveted trophy in Trinidad and Tobago, although Petermann will no doubt be turning to club colleague Kim Kulig, a key member of the victorious FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup squad, for advice. "I'd like to have been a part of it, especially because so many fans came to the stadiums. I'd love to experience that," said Lena, who hopes the U-17 edition of the tournament will be the first of many for her in national colours. "The 2011 Women's World Cup is probably going to come a bit too soon for me, but I'll take things as they come and we'll see what happens. You can never account for injuries and such like. One thing is for certain, though: I'm setting myself ambitious goals."
No wonder then, that the young starlet models herself on one of her country's leading women's footballers. "I like Inka Grings because she plays up front too." Lena still has some way to go if she is to emulate the success of her idol. Not only is Grings the most successful striker in German women's football with over 300 Bundesliga goals, she has also scored 57 goals in 84 internationals.
Still, if Lena, who has scored eight goals in eight appearances for the U-17s, can continue developing as she has been, anything is possible. Her first major international test awaits in the Caribbean...