Fans have been singing "Football's coming home" for almost 15 years now, and 'Three Lions', to give the UEFA EURO 96 anthem its official title, has become one of the most famous football songs the world over. This summer, it is a refrain that will ring true for many of the players at the FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Germany.
Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, USA, Nigeria und Equatorial Guinea will be either fighting it out for glory or looking to create a surprise or two in Germany this summer. But for a number of their players who ply their trade in the German Bundesliga, the tournament will be a real home away from home.
Anticipation running high
New Zealand's Rebecca Smith is one of the "German" contingent. The 29-year-old has been playing for VfL Wolfsburg since 2009, having already enjoyed spells at 1. FFC Frankfurt (2004) and FSV Frankfurt (2005). She sees it as a real advantage that she plays her club football in Germany, even though New Zealand are not in the same group as the FIFA Women's World Cup holders.
"They're not in our group, but if we were to play Germany it would be incredible," Smith told FIFA.com. "It would be a great opportunity, not just for New Zealand but for me as well. The advantage for me is that I know how things are organised and I'm familiar with the food, the travel etc. That will be the main difference compared with the 2007 World Cup in China, where we didn't really know exactly where we were."
With Smith living and playing in Germany, she is getting to enjoy the build-up to the FIFA Women's World Cup. "It's difficult not to get into the World Cup mood in Germany. You're always being reminded of that fact that we're having a World Cup here. I've been here for two years now and it's getting stronger every day," she added.
Her Wolfsburg teammate Leni Larsen-Kaurin certainly agrees. The Norway international has been a Bundesliga regular since 2007, starting out with Turbine Potsdam before moving to 1. FFC Frankfurt and then signing for Wolfsburg in 2010.
"You can already sense that something is going on," she said as early as last October to FIFA.com. "There's a lot of advertising for the event in Wolfsburg already. I'm looking forward to the Women's World Cup – it'll be really something, like a big party. Lots of fans and spectators will be able to take part in the event, as was the case with the men's competition. I'd say that Germany is the best country you could possibly have to be organising and hosting a Women's World Cup."
Norwegians are by their own admission similar to the Germans in terms of character, which should also prove to be an advantage for them. "There's not that much of a difference between Germany and Norway. The two cultures are similar and so are their respective mentalities," said Larsen-Kaurin, who is looking forward to enjoying 'home' advantage.
Renewing old acquaintances
New Zealand have been drawn in the same group as Japan, giving Smith a chance to renew some old acquaintances. Japanese internationals Yuki Nagasato and Kozue Ando will be another two players enjoying a home away from home at the tournament, the former plying her trade with current champions Potsdam, the latter hoping to propel FCR 2001 Duisburg towards a UEFA Champions League spot. The three players have shared the spoils in their Bundesliga battles this season, with a win and a loss apiece thus far.
Group C, meanwhile, will see club team-mates battling it out for national supremacy. Sweden's Jessica Landstrom and Sara Thunebro ought to know everything there is to know about their fellow 1. FFC Frankfurt player and US international Ali Krieger, whom they will face in the first round. Krieger has been playing in Germany since 2007 – an experience which should stand her in good stead during the tournament.
FIFA Women's World Cup debutants Equatorial Guinea also have an adopted German in their ranks in the shape of Genoveva Anonma, the 21-year-old who signed for FF USV Jena in 2009. This turned out to be an astute move for the club from the east of Germany as Anonma has scored 12 goals for them already this season.
African Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007, Cynthia Uwak is another Bundesliga regular. The 24-year-old Nigerian forward has been with 1. FC Saarbrucken since 2009 , having first shot to prominence back in 2006 when she scored four goals in as many matches to help Nigeria make the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Russia.
Her performances at that tournament saw her nominated for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in 2006, and since then she has represented her country at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup and at the 2008 Women's Football Olympic Tournament, both in China.
Plenty of players will be playing in their adopted country when this summer's tournament rolls around. Whether that will give them home advantage remains to be seen!