She was a stalwart for her country for more than a decade, but when Germany begin their UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 campaign against Sweden on 17 July, Melanie Behringer’s name will not be on the team sheet. After helping her side to glory at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 last August, Behringer ended her international career on a memorable high. “I was never sure when the time would come, but I always played with the thought in my head that I would retire,” she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
“At first, I wanted to wait to see how things went at the Olympics, for me personally and us as a team. Then I was sure [of my decision] when we beat Canada in the semi-finals. On the pitch, I just knew, ‘Right, that’s it for me. I can’t really end it on a better note.’ I’d won everything with the national team and it was already a massive achievement for me to get to an Olympic final. A silver medal would have been amazing, so ending it after the final was the obvious decision. I’d play one more game and that would be it.”
That the Lorrach native would go on to win gold in the last of her 123 international appearances is now common knowledge, as is her valuable contribution to Germany’s historic triumph. The then 30-year-old netted five goals to finish as the tournament’s top scorer and she was nominated for The Best FIFA Women's Player award for 2016. “I’d never scored five goals at a tournament before, but things just went perfectly for me,” she beamed. “I was able to really help the team. The important thing for me was simply that, as a team, we were successful. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter who scored the goals, but obviously, I’m happy that I was able to contribute.”
Team spirit the key
It was not just Behringer’s nose for goal that helped bring Germany a first Olympic title in Brazil, however. “It was obvious to everyone that we didn’t play as well in the group stage, as we’d have liked. But we always got it together when it mattered, and I just had the feeling that we were a unit. That might not have been clear to people on the outside, who saw us on the pitch, but I knew how well we got on with each other and that every player would give everything for the team, in every match. In the end, we deserved to win the trophy.”
'All for one and one for all' was the motto from Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and it could just as easily be used to sum up Germany’s Olympic triumph, as well as to motivate the side for this summer’s EUROs. Behringer will watch from the sidelines, as her former team-mates attempt to defend their title and win a third European crown, and she admitted she may feel a touch wistful at not being involved. “I’m completely happy with my decision to retire from the national team. It was obviously a fantastic time and I don’t miss anything right now, although that could change once the tournament starts and it hits home that I can’t be part of it anymore.”
She may end up longing to represent her country once more, but for now, Behringer must focus all her attention on excelling for her club Bayern Munich. The 5'6 (1.72m) striker has lifted the domestic league title for the last two seasons and the Bavarians are in the running once more this term. The same goes for the UEFA Women’s Champions League, where Bayern take on Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals on 23 and 29 March, and Behringer has high expectations for the tournament. “In 2017, I definitely aim to stay fit, healthy and as injury-free as possible until the end of the season," she said. "I also want to win the league and the Champions League. I still haven’t won that one yet.”