By some sort of coincidence, international teams seem to have more and more sets of twins in their squads at major tournaments these days. Germany have outdone all the others by having a duo of duos at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2008. When coach Maren Meinert runs her squad through daily training exercises in Chile, it must be difficult for outside observers not to get confused. At a distance, who can tell Nicole and Sylvie Banecki apart, or indeed Monique and Isabel Kerschowski?
But appearances can be misleading. "We are totally different," says Nicole to FIFA.com, eliciting a nod of agreement from her sister, who is two centimetres taller. Both play for Bayern Munich, but while Nicole, who is 15 minutes older, is known for her silky skills, Sylvie is a bustling attacker. The pair have a footballing older brother too, Francis, who has played two Bundesliga matches for Werder Bremen. Another thing the two 20-year-olds definitely common is their ambition. "Ideally we want to win here at the U-20 World Cup," says Sylvie.
The Banecki sisters come from Berlin, as do the Kerschowski twins, who ply their trade with Turbine Potsdam and are even more difficult to tell apart. Physically they are virtually identical, but their friends will tell you that Monique has a horizontal scar on her brow while Isabel has a vertical one in the same place. On the pitch, Monique's job is to keep opposing centre-forwards under wraps, while Isabel operates at the other end of the pitch. "There's one thing that all four of us have in common. We believe that we can win the World Cup," say Nicole Banecki and Isabel Kerschowski - who have three goals between them at the tournament so far - in unison.
German efficiency to combat Brazil's technique
The days of hesitating over which Berlin twin is which are long gone for Meinert, which is a good thing since the Germany coach is currently busy preparing for their next opponents, none other than Brazil, whom they meet in Temuco on Monday in the quarter-finals. "They will obviously be tough nuts to crack," says the coach. One aspect of the German game that they will have to improve on is converting their chances, which is where Nicole Banecki and Isabel Kerschowski come in. "We definitely won't get as many chances against Brazil as we did against Canada," says former top international Meinert in an interview with FIFA.com. "If we want to go further at the World Cup, we need to be more efficient. We need to spread the ball wide more as well."
After seeing her team successfully handle the pressure in their final, decisive group match against Canada when they needed a result to stay in the competition, Meinert has now turned her attentions to an altogether different problem: "We need to find a way of stopping Erika. She can do almost anything out on the pitch." Yet the coach knows that if anyone can combat the technically gifted Auriverde, then her physically strong and battling squad can: "The potential is there!" she says.
Meinert's charges will have to keep a cool head on Monday and concentrate on the matter in hand. "Of course we're all keyed up. Playing Brazil is an amazing experience. But I'm convinced that my team has gained a lot in maturity over the past week, and that will spur us on." Confidence is back in the German camp - at just the right time.