There’s something about Germany and left-backs at present. Philipp Lahm, actually a right-footed player, has turned in world-class displays on the left for many years now, although the Bayern Munich stalwart is engaged in a concerted campaign to persuade boss Joachim Low that he really belongs on the right. One of Lahm’s countrywomen now appears to be following closely in the Bayern vice-captain’s footsteps.
At just 21, Babett Peter is really only just setting out on her career, but the Turbine Potsdam regular not only has 44 international caps to her name, she even took the captain’s armband after Birgit Prinz was substituted against China PR at the recent Algarve Cup. Over the last couple of years, the diminutive but lightning-quick full-back has quietly but steadily rooted herself in the starting line-up for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™ hosts.
There are a number of intriguing parallels with Lahm beyond her position. Peter has made a similar virtue out of necessity, as a right-footed player who has established herself on what would normally be considered the ‘wrong’ side of the park. Her extraordinary stamina and indefatigable running have made her admired and feared by rivals around the world. And just like Lahm at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, Peter is the figurehead for a group of talented younger players now emerging onto the scene as a distinguished older generation bows out.
FIFA Women's World Cup dream
"We’ve become more athletic, and I also think we young players have come on a lot. We’re fired up and determined to win the World Cup for the third time in a row," Peter exclusively told FIFA.com in mid-February following Germany’s comfortable 3-0 friendly win over Korea DPR in Duisburg.
The player has good reason for her new-found confidence. After exploding onto the international scene as the discovery of the tournament at the UEFA WOMEN’S EURO 2009 in Finland, and playing a starring role in her country’s latest successful defence of the continental crown, she was widely acknowledged as the best player in the German Women’s Bundesliga in the first half of the current campaign. "I’m a much more confident player now and have a lot more faith in my ability to try a few things on the pitch," the player revealed.
That has not always been the case. Peter, a model athlete, playfully but respectfully nicknamed "Hulk" by her team-mates for her stocky build, tends from modest to positively shy in her public persona. Following her first appearance in German junior colours, she even contemplating giving up top-level sport altogether after her nerves cracked in her debut against the USA, and she had to be substituted after just half an hour.
Destined for great things
"I’m a lot better at tackling now, and a great deal more comfortable on the ball," Peter reported, attributing her improvement to hard work on her mental ability to cope with the pressure of performing at the highest level. Nowadays, faced with the muscular defender blocking their paths, it is more likely to be her opponents who freeze or descend into hopeless resignation.
Germany boss Silvia Neid is thrilled at the progress made by her raw diamond in defence. "Babett has matured into a real personality. Everyone has faith in her," the coach explained. "She’s a lot more effective and purposeful, which wasn’t always the case. She’s changed, and she’s on the right track now."
With the likes of Peter in the ranks, the German women’s game need fear little from the impending departure of the generation featuring Birgit Prinz, Nadine Angerer and their contemporaries. At the 2011 finals, the chances are that the established stars and the aspiring youngsters will combine to form a team with a potent blend of youth and experience.
"We face stiff competition, and not just from the USA and Brazil. European teams like England and Sweden will push us to the limit," Peters warned. But the new and improved Babett is convinced that she and her team-mates will triumph in the end.