Germany
© AFP

The past
Germany's progress to the global summit of the women's game was as impressive as it was inexorable. The reigning European champions did not concede a single goal on their way to defending the game's top prize at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007. Supremely well-organised and boasting experienced stars such as defender Ariane Hingst, playmaker Renate Lingor and striker Birgit Prinz, the 2-0 victory over Brazil in the Final in Shanghai was the crowning glory of a success-laden era. The world champions go into the 2008 Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing as favourites, starkly contrasting with a group stage exit at Atlanta 1996, and bronze at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

The present
If the team coached by Silvia Neid has a weakness worthy of the name, it would have to be a diminishing hunger for trophies among a mature ensemble which has already won almost all there is to win. However, even this potential flaw is unlikely to play a role in Beijing, as the German women have yet to claim Olympic gold. One intriguing question will be the choice of goalkeeper: both 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup star Silke Rottenberg and 2007 heroine Nadine Angerer remain locked in competition for the number one shirt.

The future
The battle for places in the team has hotted up lately, as Neid tackles the challenge of blooding a crop of new and talented youngsters, with the aim of picking up valuable experience at the Olympics in preparation for an assault on the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 on home soil. The current golden generation will be difficult to replace, but replaced they eventually must be. After qualifying for Beijing as world champions, the Germans were still struggling to find the right blend of young and old in finishing a distinctly modest fourth at the spring 2008 Algarve Cup in Portugal. "We still need to get better," Neid said. "I just hope that we can be ready for these Olympic Games. We are the current World and European champions, so I know what we are capable of achieving."

Facts and figures

Former stars
Silvia Neid (1996), Heidi Mohr (1996), Bettina Wiegmann (2000), Doris Fitschen (2000), Steffi Jones (2004)

Key Players
Nadine Angerer (goalkeeper), Ariane Hingst (defence), Renate Lingor (midfield), Birgit Prinz (forward)

Qualifying statistics
Five wins and one draw in winning the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007, scoring 21 goals and conceding none.

The numbers game
1022: The minutes played by Nadine Angerer without conceding a goal, before finally picking the ball from her own net again in a 2-0 defeat to Norway in the 2008 Algarve Cup third-place play-off.