German heroines on cloud nine
© Foto-net

At the end of a perfect day for German football at the Shanghai-Hangkou stadium, the grinning trio of Anja Mittag, Babett Peter and Simone Laudehr made the briefest of public appearances, before heading back to the raucous dressing room celebrations, loaded with bottles of champagne.

The three young stars had every right to let themselves go. Silvia Neid's players had just made football history as the first team in history to retain a FIFA Women's World Cup. Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer summed up the elation - and the Germans' intentions: "We'll party till we drop."

Along with the obvious delight, there was a clear sense of relief in the German camp after the team's 2-0 victory against tough and talented Brazilian opposition. At the final whistle, as the fireworks flew and the pitch became submerged in confetti, Birgit Prinz and her team-mates were visibly overcome. The pressure was off. The holders had answered all the questions asked of them to end the tournament as worthy winners.

In an interview with, Prinz saw earlier criticism of the team as a major source of motivation: "We have come in for a lot of stick this year," said the striker, whose opening goal against the Brazilians came at a crucial point in the game, "but we answered our critics on the pitch today. We proved that we're tough to beat because we never lie down." Asked if this great win felt different to the triumph in 2003, she added simply: "It's a different kind of feeling. You just can't compare the two."

Some fans are already talking about this final as one of the best in the tournament's history, but the players themselves were still too busy celebrating for the magnitude of their achievement to sink in. Ariane Hingst struggled to put the feeling into words: "I was sitting there next to Renate (Lingor) and we just looked at each other and couldn't believe we'd really done it. I almost asked her who we were playing next. I just can't believe it but I'm really proud of what we've done." And she has every right feel satisfied, after guiding her defence through the whole tournament without conceding a single goal. "That record will take some beating," she said.

'A bit of luck when it mattered'
Simone Laudehr, scorer of the Germans' was another player with a look of dazed happiness in her eyes. The midfielder, who made the No6 shirt her own in this tournament, fought to control her emotions: "I just can't believe it. I have just won the World Cup and I'm only 21. I can't even believe I'm in the team and I've scored a goal in a World Cup final. It's just unbelievable." She was also already being given a foretaste for what is going on back home in Bavaria: "My mobile hasn't stopped ringing and I've got about 30 text messages," she said, before turning around and hugging Silvia Neid.

For all the euphoria, the German girls looked exhausted, this after a match over which they never appeared to have complete control. "We had a bit of luck when it mattered," Hingst admitted. "You need luck to win World Cups. Once Nadine saved Marta's penalty I knew it was going to be our day. But before that, they were looking really good."

Prinz, the three-time FIFA World Footballer of the Year, agreed: "You have to say that other teams had better individual players than us at this World Cup. But we were the best team. We stood by each other and we enjoyed being together. That was the only secret." With that, the player who had brought her own unique brand of magic to this World Cup made her way onto the team bus, Harry Potter book in hand.

Inarguably, Neid's team's biggest fan is the President of the German Football Association (DFB), Theo Zwanziger, and he took time to congratulate every single player as the team departed the stadium. A clearly delighted Zwanziger spoke of his pride in the players in an exclusive interview with "These girls have done their country proud. This win will give a massive boost to the women's game in Germany. It was just a fantastic night."

And as Angerer and her singing, dancing colleagues were at pains to point out, it was only just beginning.