Germany's Benkarth leads from the back
© Getty Images

"If we don't let any goals in, we can't lose," a successful coach once replied when asked about his tactics. And Germany's last line of defence at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Japan 2012 Laura Benkarth would certainly not disagree.

The 19-year-old kept a clean sheet in all three group matches – a feat previously achieved by only Brazil's Barbara and Jon Myong Hui of Korea DPR at Russia 2006. Not that the affable goalkeeper is resting on her laurels, as she explained in an interview with "I'm obviously very pleased with the way things have gone, but it's not all down to me – this is a team game. All of the team are working hard on defence, making us very compact."

Benkarth had just 20 shots come her way spanning the matches against China PR, Ghana and USA, which underlines her comments on the solidity of the German defence. And she was not in danger of getting bored either, since her job as goalkeeper is not just to make saves but also to keep the ball moving and to get her team-mates involved – qualities which she admires in Germany senior men's keeper Manuel Neuer.

A familiar foe

"I'm more nervous before kick-off than I am during the actual matches," Benkarth revealed. "At the moment things are going really well for me. That probably wouldn't have been the case if I'd looked unsure of myself on a couple of occasions during the group matches."

The quarter-final in Saitama on Friday will see Germany take on a team they have got to know very well over recent months and years, namely Norway. They beat the Scandinavians twice (3-1 and 8-1) in the UEFA Women's U-19 Championship 2011, drawing 1-1 against them last February, before cruising to 5-0 win in a clash just a month and a half ago.

"We can't dwell on that last match though," Benkarth said cautiously. "Norway have put in a lot of hard work since then. It is good for us though that we know our opponent so well. We know what to expect."

Should Germany defeat the Norwegians on Friday, they will set a record with their 11th consecutive win in the tournament. What is more, after being first-choice between the sticks so far here in Japan, Benkarth also featured in a further six games of that sequence, when the Germans won the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2010 on home soil.

Plenty to aim for
"It was a wonderful and unique experience," she recalled. "Particularly in front of so many fans. It was absolutely unforgettable." She and team-mate Dzsenifer Marozsan are in the running to become the first players ever to win the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup twice.

Should they go all the way, then Benkarth would also likely be favourite for the adidas Golden Glove award given to the best goalkeeper in the tournament. The Breisgau teenager thus has plenty to aim for, but she is taking it one game at a time.

"That's all well and good but we can't let ourselves get off track," she said. "The game against Norway is the only thing that counts at the moment. You expect Germany to be the favourites more often than not, but it's something that we've got used to."

Back at the 2006 edition of this competition, Brazil and Korea DPR both achieved the same feat as Germany this time around: qualifying from their groups without conceding a goal. And though this came to an end in the quarter-finals, the pair still progressed 2-1 against Nigeria and France respectively.

While A Seleção would come third, the North Koreans went on to win the tournament – and Benkarth would happily settle for that, even if it means letting in a goal or two along the way.