Host nation Germany are red-hot favourites going into the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2010 on Sunday at 3pm in Bielefeld, where they will face surprise package Nigeria. Maren Meinert’s charges have impressed throughout the tournament, putting in strong performances and scoring a hatful of goals en route to the final.
Much of their success can be put down to Kim Kulig, the 20-year-old defensive midfielder from Hamburg SV who has long been a fixture in the full international team and has formed a fruitful partnership over the past few weeks with playmaker Marina Hegering. FIFA.com caught up with the affable blonde for an exclusive interview ahead of the big showdown.
Kim, the team strolled through its semi-final, thrashing Korea Republic 5-1. Does that give you extra confidence ahead of Sunday’s final with Nigeria?
It certainly does! It takes something to score five goals. Our performance against the Koreans was ok. We were solid at the back and we always look like scoring goals when we go forward, anyone can see that.
You’ve certainly lived up to expectations as host nation with the way you’ve cruised into the final. What makes this German team so special?
You could see right from the start of the tournament that we were playing as a team. We’ve also managed to improve, tactically and in terms of fitness from match to match. I think that people can see that we’re really on a roll at the moment. I hope that we can carry this through to the final – that’s the one goal we have left, and it’s a big one!
You are one of the more experienced players, having already won 18 caps at full international level. Is the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup still something special for you though?
I have to say that I was delighted to play in a U-20 World Cup semi-final, since I was suspended for the corresponding match in Chile two years ago. I can’t put into words how I feel at making it into the final. We’ve got through, and that was our main aim right from the start. Now we have the chance to show what we’re made of. The crowd will be right behind us, we’re playing in Bielefeld and we are incredibly proud of the fact that so many fans have been coming to our matches and cheering us on.
How are you feeling ahead of Sunday’s final in Bielefeld?
The best part of it is that we all get on so well together. A lot of us know each other from back when we played U-15s together and it’s great that we’re all still together at the U-20 World Cup. There are players with experience, some have even won the Champions League, and we all just get along with each other. Everything’s in place. It’s not the case with us that you have three or four players who dictate everything. Each individual on the pitch has a role to play, and so do those who come on with fresh legs. We’re just incredibly flexible. Every player in the squad has a legitimate case for being in the starting line-up, which makes us unpredictable.
How do you rate your opponents, Nigeria?
Nigeria are an African team, and it’s never easy playing against teams like them. We faced Congo DR back in Chile. The matches tend to be tough battles, since the Africans are very quick and athletic. Nigeria are a really good team and they deserve their place in the final.
You scored twice in the semi-final. Was it the ideal moment for you to make a statement?
I was obviously delighted to make a contribution to our semi-final win, and secondly it was a great weight off my shoulders to score. At the end of the day though, it was a good team performance and it really doesn’t matter who scores the goals.
You got off to a slow start in the tournament, but then you gradually started imposing yourself on the defensive midfield. Would you describe your two goals against Korea Republic as a breakthrough?
Absolutely! I struggled in the build-up to the World Cup since I was feeling pretty flat. The matches were all very tough but now I can see that I was gradually improving my fitness. I feel fresher and it‘s true that I’m performing better out on the pitch. I just hope that I’ve got another 90 good minutes in me for the final.
You’re one of the top players meaning that more is expected of you. How are you all preparing for the big showdown? Does the team feel ready?
We’re all experienced players and we can give each other the support we need. We try to do everything exactly the same and we’re a superstitious bunch. We’ll obviously all talk about the final together though. The title is ours to lose now – we’ve earned it!