Courage and passion mean a great deal to Kim Kulig - so much so, she has the words tattooed in Arabic script on her lower left arm. It not only describes the way she approaches football, it sums up her philosophy of life. And when the 21-year-old midfielder lines up for hosts and holders Germany against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup™ quarter-finals in Wolfsburg on Saturday, she will need both these qualities in full measure.
Crowd hero and key figure
The spotlight is currently on the 21-year-old. Sharing the holding midfield duties with Simone Laudehr, her crucial task will be to disrupt the Nadeshiko’s pacy and precise short-passing game. Germany boss Silvia Neid rested Kulig for her team's third group match against France as a precaution against suspension for a second yellow card, but is certain to restore the shooting star for Saturday. And there can be no doubt Kulig is more than up for the challenge.
The player made a significant contribution to her country winning the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup on home soil a year ago, elevating her to the status of crowd darling and a regular in the senior line-up. Offering plenty of bite in the tackle and terrific work-rate in the engine room, Kulig is one of the first names on Neid's teamsheet these days. Away from the field of play, she is much admired by the public at large for her fresh, natural and always fashionable media appearances.
Composed and cool at a young age
“Kim Kulig is one of the players whose footballing skill and confident, appealing personality make her a figurehead of a new women's footballing generation in Germany," said Siegfried Dietrich, general manager of Women's Bundesliga giants FFC Frankfurt, who have signed the 26-time international from Hamburg for the new season. Speaking prior to the tournament, Neid underscored the vital importance of defensive midfield, where Kulig and Laudehr pull the strings for Germany: “That's the key to it all!"
Despite the attention and fuss prompted by her stellar assent through the women's footballing ranks, the 21-year-old from Herrenberg near Stuttgart has her feet firmly on the ground, skilfully navigating a middle path between ambition and modesty. “You only get one go at a World Cup in your own country, and the fact I'm experiencing it as a member of the senior national team is really huge for me," she exclusively told FIFA.com, without exhibiting a trace of apprehension or nervousness. It would come as an enormous surprise if Kulig was not to deliver her usual utterly composed performance when the hosts and Japan do battle for a place in the semi-finals.
Fired up for Japan challenge
“We have every reason to be confident prior to the match. Three wins so far tells its own story, and we finally played some really good football against France," the midfielder declared.
She is now keen to continue that trend alongside her partner Laudehr, who is four years her senior. “We have a very good understanding, but in the first two matches when we were in the team together, our attacking play wasn't particularly impressive, so we certainly have room to improve,” the player said.
The Japan clash could be the ultimate test so far of Kulig’s maturity. As one of the figureheads of the new generation, the match is a perfect showcase for her to demonstrate her undoubted class when it really matters. She is utterly determined to do just that in Wolfsburg, urging her team-mates to rise to the task: “If we're to realise our dream of winning the World Cup three times in a row, we’ll have to improve just a little bit with every game." Her eyes sparkle as she delivers this rallying cry, testimony to her deep reserves of those admirable qualities, courage and passion.