There are defining moments in every player's career and matches in which they can seem to do no wrong. In Nadine Angerer's case, that moment - and that match - came in no less an occasion than the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007.
The 28-year-old was a key player on Sunday evening in Shanghai, her penalty save from Marta among several superb stops that carried the German women's team to a 2-0 win over Brazil as they successfully defended their title. The clean sheet, her sixth in succession, also meant that the keeper went through the entire tournament without being beaten, broke Italian Walter Zenga's record for minutes without conceding at a FIFA World Cup and was named the game's best player and the finals' top goalkeeper. All told, not a bad day's work.
"I'd put it like this: what I was lucky enough to experience today was the sporting highlight of my life so far," said Angerer, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com and looking as if she could barely come to terms with what had happened over the previous 90 minutes in the Shanghai-Hongkou Football Stadium.
Throughout the tournament, it became clear that the player known to her team-mates as Natze was very much on the way to becoming the best keeper in the world. Though barely tested in the opening games, she came into her own in the knockout phase against Korea DPR and Norway with some vital and spectacular saves.
Emerging from the shadows
Her crowning glory came in the final between the 64th and 67th minutes. First, she dived low to her right a penalty from Marta, and in the very second that she eclipsed Zenga's record, she clawed on to the post an incredible free-kick from Daniela. "As a goalie, you have to set an example," said Angerer, "and when I saved the penalty, it was like me saying 'Come on you lot, shake it up a bit!'"
Those very team-mates were over the moon for Angerer and know full well what a star they have in their ranks. "The game, the penalty and the record were just brilliant for Natze," said Birgit Prinz, who scored the opening goal in the final. Defensive lynchpin Ariane Hingst, who has played alongside Angerer for a number of years at Turbine Potsdam, added: "As a team, we're all delighted for Nadine as she was in the background for years and never complained. Here she finally got her chance and she grabbed it with both hands. She deserves it and I'm so pleased for her."
Even Jorge Barcellos took time from bemoaning his side's defeat to hail Angerer as "an excellent goalkeeper", while the 28-year-old's main rival, Silke Rottenberg, who was in goal when Germany won the FIFA Women's World Cup 2003, offered equally generous praise. "Back then it was me, now it's Nadine," she said. "Germany certainly has two world class goalkeepers and all the other countries are definitely envious of us. She fully deserved to be named the best keeper."
With Angerer between the sticks, Germany's crown certainly looks to be in safe hands.