Krieger: Germany are the team to beat

Germany and USA traditionally dominate the women’s game, and will again be many onlookers’ favourites to lift the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ this summer, when the illustrious event will be held for the sixth time.

Splitting her time between these two global powerhouses, Ali Krieger has become a regular in the American national side while establishing herself at domestic level in the colours of German outfit 1. FFC Frankfurt, with whom she won the league and cup double in 2008. In December of last year, these paths intersected when the draw that would decide the fates of the two nations closest to her heart was staged in her adopted city.

“People are already referring to our pool as the ‘group of death’, but personally speaking, I don‘t pay much attention to that. I can assure you that no matter which team is holding the trophy aloft in July, they will have had to battle through some tough games to get there,” the defender told soon after the draw had placed the Stars and Stripes in Group C alongside Korea DPR, Colombia and Sweden.

“I’m actually quite happy that it’s a difficult group on paper, because that will force us to focus properly and to play to the best of our ability right from the start. We’re one of the favourites to win the competition, but that doesn’t mean that going all the way will be easy,” she warned.

Who we come up against in our group or in the following round isn’t really that important, because when you aspire to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Ali Krieger, USA defender

While Pia Sundhage, USA’s Swedish coach, would no doubt agree with those sentiments, she is also looking as far ahead as possible. “I haven’t given my players any targets other than to keep winning each match," she said. "But I’ve also told them that they’re the best team, and that the best team should always come out on top."

This objective does not appear to faze Krieger, winner of the North America-based W-League with Washington Freedom in 2007. “Our goal is to win the world title," she stated. "Who we come up against in our group or in the following round isn’t really that important, because when you aspire to be the best, you have to beat the best."

The best team, in the eyes of most observers, is none other than Germany, who, on home soil, will be expected to go far. “There’s no doubt they’re currently the top side in the world,” admitted Krieger, who for the last four seasons has rubbed shoulders with some of the players responsible for winning the last two FIFA Women’s World Cups for the European nation, namely Nadine Angerer, Ariane Hingst and the legendary Birgit Prinz.

“By playing and training alongside them every day, I’ve learned so much. And I hope that all they’ve taught me will help me to get the better of them this summer!” joked the American when raised the possibility of a confrontation with the hosts in the latter stages of the tournament.

Although she has picked up just 14 caps so far, precisely 338 fewer than those earned by her recently-retired compatriot and idol Kristine Lilly, Krieger will likely play a key role in the Americans’ quest for a third world crown in Germany, just as she did when helping her country to triumph at the prestigious 2011 Algarve Cup in Portugal earlier this month.

“It’ll be a dream come true to represent my country at a World Cup that’s being held in my second home,” she said, in reference to her roots and her surname, passed down by a German grandmother. “I’m in the favourable position of being familiar with the country and its culture, as well as a number of opposition players taking part in the competition. For example, I count Sweden’s Jessica Landstrom and Sara Thunebro among my best friends, and we’re due to play them in the group stage. I’m kind of a double agent,” she added with a smile.

Mirroring her fluent style of play, Ali is able to switch effortlessly between German and English at press conferences. At training sessions with her club, she also regularly translates for team-mates not yet at ease with the Teutonic tongue.

Moreover, she has recently taken to repeating her favourite phrase, which she finds just as pleasant to utter in English as she does in German: “I hope we win the World Cup!”