Garefrekes driving Germany on

Once she hits her stride, there is no stopping Kerstin Garefrekes. The long-legged Germany midfielder can outrun almost any opponent and it seems the only place where she feels stifled is in the interview room.

While star players Birgit Prinz and Renate Lingor are regularly in the limelight, Garefrekes prefers to let her actions speak louder than any words. In this sense the 28-year-old winger, who celebrated her birthday on 4 September somewhere in the skies between Germany and China, remains something of an unsung hero in coach Silvia Neid's side.

Stepping into the breach
A German title-winner with Frankfurt, Garefrekes already has some 82 caps to her name and her standing within the squad is such that she was entrusted with the crucial midfield holding role in the decisive third and final group match against Japan, standing in for the suspended Simone Laudehr and the injured Saskia Bartusiak.

Garefrekes' natural position would be in right midfield hugging the touchline, but she managed to break down any number of Japan attacks with her athletic play. "The situation was born out of necessity and it was a little unusual," she told "But at the end of the day, we won 2-0 and got through to the quarter-finals. That's all that counts."

Coach Neid is well aware of the significance of Garefrekes' role in the Germany team. "Kerstin stepped up to the plate on behalf of the team and played really well. Over breakfast before the match, I already had a really good feeling about her and I knew that she would be up to the task." That said, it is highly unlikely that Garefrekes will become a permanent fixture in the holding midfield position, as the 2004 Bundesliga top scorer is far too valuable on the right flank.

'Tough quarter-final'
Even star striker Prinz has said Germany have been far from their creative best thus far, and it may just be up to Garefrekes to provide the spark if they are to retain their title. She was the one who was willing to take players on and try to beat them for pace in their first two matches against Argentina (11-0) and England (0-0), creating any number of chances.

For once, Garefrekes was quite outspoken after the Japan match. "We need to improve with every game," she said, "and we will improve." With all her experience, Garefrekes is aware that this will be essential for the next match against Korea DPR. "The quarter-finals will be tough," she said, "we can be sure of that!"