Monday 23 March 2020, 08:00

Voss-Tecklenburg: I still consider Germany to be among the world’s best

  • Martina Voss-Tecklenburg satisfied with Germany’s Algarve Cup performance

  • Germany coach speaks about her team and changing face of women's football

  • "The US will have to prove themselves over the next few years"

Where is Germany’s women’s national team heading? This is a question that many fans will certainly have asked themselves after the side’s quarter-final exit from the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. While Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side were notable by their absence from last spring’s international tournaments, they knew how to impress as they took part in this year’s Algarve Cup for the first time in five years.

Their head coach spoke to about the upheaval within the team, changes in women’s football and how the top of the game is becoming increasingly competitive.

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: Are you satisfied with your team’s performance at the Algarve Cup? Although we only ended up playing two matches, we are very satisfied with the Algarve Cup for various reasons. We had perfect conditions, a wonderful hotel and fantastic training facilities. The matches against Sweden and Norway were against opponents who aren’t exactly a long way down the world rankings.

The fact that we were able to use all of our players except one goalkeeper helped to keep both the team and the coaching staff happy. After not seeing each other for five months, we found our game relatively quickly and are keen to reinforce and refine it for the future.

Although Germany are still second in the world rankings, the gaps between teams are getting smaller. Critics claim that Germany have lost touch. Is that really the case?

That’s a legitimate question and it’s important to answer it objectively. If you’re second in the world rankings, you can’t say that Germany has fallen off the pace. We deliberately shook up the personnel before the World Cup, and we also had a new coaching team that only had five months to coordinate with each other before the World Cup.

Although that wasn’t easy, we reached the quarter-finals and achieved very satisfactory results before that. We played very good football at times, introduced some talented youngsters and ultimately lost one very tight match 2-1. We just have to admit that our opponents were also really, really good that day.

Where do Germany stand within women’s football?

I still consider us to be among the world’s best, which means I also think we’re among the best in Europe. However, I can also see – and I feel pretty proud about this – that international women’s football has come so far. It will become much harder for Germany and other countries to win trophies. USA might still be one exception to this rule, but even they will have to prove whether they can handle radical change in the next few years.

Before long they will lose many outstanding players as a truly remarkable generation call time on their careers. It will be exciting to see how USA will move forward. I see the world’s top teams moving closer together. We always wanted that to happen in international women’s football. The standard of play at the World Cup completely reflected this.

You mentioned the upheaval within the team. Would you say that Germany has so much talent that as soon as one player hangs up their boots, another moves up to replace them?

It would be fantastic if a talented youngster could replace a player at the end of their career like-for-like, but that isn’t realistic. The experience of established players is particularly obvious at tournaments. We simply didn’t have that experience at the last World Cup; in fact, we had 15 players making their debut in the competition, and that showed in the team’s processes. I think we have great prospects for the next EUROs and World Cup – if we can keep the team together the way it has now crystallised.

We also need experienced players like Alex Popp, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Melanie Leupolz and Sara Dabritz, who are now stepping up and taking on responsibilities they didn’t have to worry about before. We have truly talented players, but they have to grow into their responsibilities carefully. That can only happen if we can play as many tournaments as possible. Being very well placed in terms of youth development helps us. It will be a little more difficult this year, but no matter what happens, we will accept the situation and use it to help our development.

Coming back to USA for a moment. What has made the team so strong in recent years?

The image they have cultivated around their development of women’s football. This country, which has dominated the women’s game for decades, boasts a vast pool of talented girls who play football but also have great personalities. Like it or not, it’s a bit of that ‘America first’ idea. Their mentality and their understanding of the world is about daring to do things and expressing themselves – and even going out on the pitch and saying: "We will win this match".

I see players who want to have the ball in every phase of play, who take responsibility and are also mentally equipped to respond quickly to a wide variety of situations. I don’t think they have always played the very best football, but when you add up all the success factors that you need to win titles, they have been a long way ahead of every other country – particularly at the last World Cup, which is why they deserved to lift the trophy.

Always wanting to win – isn’t that also a large part of the German mentality?

It’s also part of the DNA that the Germans have. The difference is simply that players need to have grown up with that attitude – and that was just so obvious with the USA’s World Cup team. There were so many players in that side with a huge wealth of experience, not only in terms of the number of internationals, tournaments or trophies, but also their standing within society. Some of them play completely different roles and take on other responsibilities off the pitch. Of course, that helps them to develop a certain image of themselves and their own strengths.

As a former Germany international and now head coach, you have witnessed the changes in women’s football first hand…

The biggest milestone is that many more countries have an interest in women’s football and have introduced all kinds of projects. The social picture has changed. Today girls are no longer generally asked how they ended up playing football. That’s one of the measurable factors. Another milestone is the increasing professionalisation of the sport. When I see the possibilities that international players have these days… they come to me and say: “I can play there, there and there…”

I still remember how, as young players, Silvia Neid and I used to think: “If we can at least become semi-professional at some point in our lives, how nice would that be?” [laughs] Today’s top players are professionals and highly-trained performance athletes. They train six or seven times a week and painstakingly tailor their environment to focus on performance.

In addition to athleticism, our players also pay attention to issues such as their lifestyle, nutrition and recovery. So much has happened and I have to say, it’s great to be able to witness it and be part of it. The challenge is in adapting to these changes. When it comes to pressure in particular, we have to create the kind of freedom that we used to have as a matter of course. Players can only unlock their performance if they find the right balance.