Maier eyes Arsenal challenge after World Cup exploits

  • Leonie Maier joined Arsenal just before the FIFA Women’s World Cup

  • Former Bayern Munich player made her debut against former team-mates

  • Admits France 2019 was disappointing, but the level is now higher

It’s not often when lining up for your debut at a new club that you’re more familiar with the players on the opposition half of the pitch.

That was the scenario for Germany defender Leonie Maier when she made her first appearance for Arsenal against her former club, Bayern Munich, having made the switch from the Frauen Bundesliga to the FA Women’s Super League a week before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.

Maier spent six years with Bayern after her move from SC 07 Bad Neuenahr in 2013, the same year she burst onto the scene at senior level as a 20-year-old, winning the UEFA Women’s Championship with Germany.

A medallist at both U-17 (bronze) and U-20 (silver) Women’s World Cups, Maier played in her second senior edition in France, having also taken to the field in Canada four years ago.

New horizons

But this will be her first experience playing club football abroad, so how did it feel to open her career in England against her former colleagues, and why the FA WSL?

“It was very strange for me to play against my old team-mates, I was very happy to see them again, but was happy to have my first game for Arsenal,” she said after her club’s 1-0 defeat.

“The league (in England) is getting better and better, and for me it was a good opportunity to improve myself and play overseas – it had always been a dream for me. “

The opportunity to join a club that now features six former team-mates, with a switch from Munich to north London proving popular in recent seasons, proved too good an opportunity to turn down. And of course, she got a few words of advice before making the move.

“I spoke to Viv (Miedema), Lisa (Evans) and Vicky (Schnaderbeck) and they only had good things to say about the club and that they are happy here,” the Olympic gold medallist said.

“The quality here is very good. We had a lot of fun in training and the focus is good. I am looking forward to seeing the other girls returning after the World Cup.”

Germany’s elimination at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Sweden means they are now without a medal since winning back-to-back Women’s World Cups in 2003 and 2007.

Rising standards

Coach Martina Voss Tecklenburg had been in the role for less than a year going into this summer’s tournament, so there is plenty to work on, but she will have been encouraged by the performances of youngsters including 17-year-old Lena Oberdorf and 20-year-old Young Player of the Tournament, Giulia Gwinn.

But while Maier was disappointed with her side’s exit at the last eight stage, she did admit that the increased level of competition at this Women’s World Cup meant performances needed to be higher, stating that there is now a bigger pool of countries posing a major challenge.

“It was not the result we expected; we were very disappointed. But that is in the past and we need to look forward now.

“The World Cup helped a lot. The high level means you have to improve yourself every game. Even the smaller countries are getting better and every game is tough, so we can improve.”