Popp: Germany going for gold
Alexandra Popp's determination, love of playing and hunger for success form an explosive combination, and the attacker has been among the best in the game since the U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany in 2010. She is now a mainstay in the senior Germany national team and head coach Silvia Neid relied heavily on Popp's impressive aerial ability and strength in the challenge both at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ on home soil and at the 2015 edition in Canada.
The dynamic 25-year-old's next objective - the Women's Olympic Football Tournament - is now just around the corner and Popp has a very clear idea of what she wants to achieve: "We're going to the tournament to win gold. That's our aim. I think we've got the quality to compete for the title.
"We've learned a lot in the last few years, especially last year at the World Cup," Popp continued. "We've got players here who picked up a lot of experience at the World Cup. It may be a different competition now, but we're in tournament mode and we're prepared for certain things. We've developed in terms of our playing style too, and we're a really good team. Our quality out on the pitch has also gone up a notch since last year. That's why I've got a good feeling that things can work out this year."
It will be a first Olympic appearance for the prolific striker and, naturally, she is greatly looking forward to it - without even a hint of nerves. "What I'm really feeling is the desire to experience the Olympics for the first time. That's why I'm very relaxed," she said, before going on to explain the significance of participating at the tournament.
"I have to admit that I wasn't really that fussed about it all initially," Popp explained. "But now that it's here, I think the Olympics is the best feeling there is. You're not just there for yourself. Obviously first and foremost we play as a team but in a general sense you're there in the same boat with all the other athletes. That's what makes the Olympics special."
Sporting enthusiastThe forward's comments serve to once again underline the magic of the Olympics, where football will be just one of many sports in the spotlight. And if Germany's schedule allows, Popp is eager to watch another discipline first hand.
"Whether or not we'll be able to see another sport depends on us making it to Rio," she said. "If we have the opportunity and time to do so, I'll definitely go along to a few events. Especially the women's hockey, as we know all the players now ."
There is also another sport that has caught Popp's eye: "I always watch the athletics. I'm fascinated by the sprinters, the hammer throw and the discus throw. I've always been engrossed by them over the last few years, whether at the Olympics, the European Championships or the World Championships. My TV was always on, with the athletics on a continuous loop. I always wonder how we'd shape up alongside them, as we're not exactly slow ourselves. But compared to athletes I'm sure there's still a huge difference."
The first hurdle on Germany's road to Rio arrives on Wednesday, when the two-time world champions face Zimbabwe in their opening Group F fixture. The Africans are the unknown quantity in the pool, in which Australia and Canada will also battle for a place in the next round.
"Our last warm-up game was against an African team in order to potentially be forearmed against what we might go up against," Popp said. "We always have specialists and scouts on hand who've seen a few of Zimbabwe's games and maybe even recorded them. From that you can extract and analyse a bit what to expect. There's still a question mark surrounding how they'll actually play on the day, but you can be prepared for fundamental things. That means we're perfectly equipped to go into our first match."