Alexandra Popp has been leading the line for Germany in impressive style at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2010. The determined striker has already netted seven goals here on home turf, and yet she remains hungry for more. The competition's leading scorer is now firmly focused on the title, but knows there are still a few more hurdles to overcome before the hosts can really begin to celebrate.
"The quarter-final win against the North Koreans was definitely the toughest match we've had. Now we need to stay fully focused and motivated and take each game as it comes," said the FCR Duisburg starlet in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "Of course we're hoping to win the title, but we can't make the mistake of thinking it's already in the bag. We have to remain disciplined. We respect all our opponents, something that's very important at a tournament like this."
'We've hit our stride'
Following the departures of Korea DPR and defending champions USA, Popp is well aware that the hosts are now the overwhelming favourites. Maren Meinert's girls take on dark horses Korea Republic in the last four in Bochum on Thursday, while Nigeria and Colombia contest the other semi-final. None of Germany's remaining rivals for the trophy have ever reached this stage of the tournament in the past, but the 2004 champions are playing with the added weight of expectation on their shoulders.
Not a problem, according to the confident Popp: "Things are just clicking for us at the moment, both in attack and defence. We had a few problems going forward but we seem to have hit our stride now." Indeed, in current form it would appear the only ones who can derail the Germans' title bid are themselves.
From all-rounder to goal-getter
One of the most remarkable stories of the tournament so far has been the way Popp has blossomed in attack. The versatile teenager has already played six times for the German senior team despite not yet holding down a starting berth with her club. Thanks to her strength in the tackle, aerial prowess and intelligent reading of the game, Popp has often been employed in defence and midfield, but based on her goalscoring return at Germany 2010, the likeable 19-year-old has surely proven her future lies up front.
"The coach gave me the job of heading up the side and I think I'm doing quite well at the moment. The team are providing me with the service I need, and I just have to put the chances away," she continued. "I was really looking forward to this World Cup because I knew I would have a team behind me that can really play football. That's shown in the seven goals I've scored so far." If things continue as they have been, the combined success stories of both Germany and Alexandra Popp could reach a glorious conclusion in Sunday's final.