Times are changing in women's football. The quality of the game has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, while the speed of the football barely gives players a chance to catch their breath. Even the notoriously level-headed Birgit Prinz is wearing yellow boots these days.
Still, one thing has remained constant in the increasingly popular female side of the sport: German striker Prinz, now 32 years of age, is as reserved as ever when dealing with journalists. "It doesn't matter that I didn't score today. It never mattered in the previous 199 matches, so why would it now?" the two-time FIFA Women's World Cup winner told FIFA.com in the catacombs of the Duisburg World Cup Arena on Wednesday night.
Germany had just passed their first test of 2010 with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Korea DPR. It was the perfect way to crown Prinz's record 200th cap for her country: "No one's ever done it before so I feel very special to be the first. It's not that important really, but it's a cool number," said the most capped player in football history, male or female.
One last challenge
Prinz has held Germany's international caps record for some time now, not to mention being their all-time top scorer. Though she was unable to add to her tally against the Koreans, rising stars Fatmire Bajramaj, Simone Laudehr and Celia Okoniyo da Mbabi each scored headed goals to ensure a positive start to the year.
With this new wave of ambitious youngsters pushing for a place in the squad, Prinz's role itself is beginning to change. Three years after Silvia Neid's ensemble successfully defended their FIFA Women's World Cup crown in China PR and a year before they bid to secure an unprecedented hat-trick of titles on home turf at Germany 2011, the most effective No9 in women's football is now far more than just a goalscorer. She is a mentor, a leader, a captain.
While Brazilian superstar Marta continues to astonish crowds with her incredible skills on a weekly basis, Prinz has matured to become the first lady of women's football. Though her inexhaustible enthusiasm and unwavering will to win make her an integral part of the Germany squad for next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in her own right, the 1. FFC Frankfurt star now faces the challenge of instilling her winning mentality into the latest crop of young German talents.
"The most important thing was that we won the match, nothing else matters," said Prinz following a dominant German display against a Korea DPR side clearly overrun by their technically and tactically superior hosts. It is this kind of professionalism that Prinz is hoping will rub on off on the next generation of German stars, particularly the player touted to take over her mantle as the focal point of the team, 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam midfielder Bajramaj.
Having won every title there is to win in women's football aside from Olympic gold and scoring 125 goals in 200 games along the way, the Germany captain has little left to prove. Prinz is the undoubted figurehead of the German team heading into next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, and with the ideal blend of youth and experience running throughout the squad, the Germans are hot favourites to complete an historic treble in front of their exuberant home fans.
Prinz continues to play down her reputation as a global star, referring to her numerous decisive and often spectacular goals as little more than a mission accomplished. However, the qualified physiotherapist will surely have star billing when she takes part in her fifth FIFA Women's World Cup next year. Perhaps then Germany's most celebrated women's footballer will get herself a pair of golden boots instead!