Hingst targets German gold
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Whenever things are not going exactly to plan, Germany can always rely on Ariane Hingst to stand up and be counted. After 151 games for the national team, the experienced defender knows just when strong words are needed to motivate her team-mates - a responsibility the world and European champion has never shied away from.

Nor was the 31-year-old coy about her team's goal for the upcoming Women's Olympic Football Tournament. "We're going for gold. That's our aim, especially as the gold medal is the one missing piece in our trophy cabinet," Hingst declared.

Even the 2-0 loss to Norway in a recent friendly failed to dampen optimism in the team coached by Silvia Neid. For as Hingst knows all too well, the higher the stakes, the better the German women tend to perform.

Our experience is a big advantage. Anyone who thinks it means we've lost our hunger is mistaken
Ariane Hingst believes Germany's experience could prove vital at Beijing 2008.

With five veterans on board who have each been capped over a 100 times, Germany will be travelling to China PR with plenty of experience in their ranks. Accompanying Hingst will be Kerstin Stegemann, Renate Lingor, Sandra Smisek and Birgit Prinz, who is a three-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year with 121 goals in 181 internationals to her name. "," Hingst said. 

The centre-back, currently playing for top Swedish club Djurgardens, believes the squad possesses the ideal mixture of experience and youth. "We've got a lot of younger players in the squad who took part in the World Cup last year and know what to expect now," added Hingst, referring to the likes of her 23-year-old defender Annike Krahn, and the even younger pair of Melanie Behringer and Simone Laudehr. All three established themselves in the national team after convincing performances during Germany's FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 triumph.

Hingst would obviously love to better the bronze-medal position the German women have twice achieved at previous Olympic tournaments, but the Berlin-born player says that collecting more silverware is not their only motivating factor. "We'll only get the chance to move into the Olympic Village around the semi-final stage at the earliest, we might even have to reach the final to get in. That's something we definitely want to experience so we'll be giving it everything to be a part of something so unique," she said.

Reaching the final, however, will be easier said than done given the strength of Germany's group opponents. The tournament kicks off with a repeat of the China 2007 final between Germany and Brazil, with the Seleção looking to erase the memory of the painful 2-0 defeat they suffered in Shanghai. It is a prospect that does not unduly unnerve Hingst. "It's certainly not an easy opening game but that's what excites me about it," she explained.

"We'll be tested from the word go and the spectators can look forward to a high-quality game." Rather than ease into the tournament, Hingst believes that "it's actually a good thing we've got Brazil in the first game. It means we'll be in the thick of things right from the start."

Toughest group
The quality of Germany's other two group opponents, Nigeria and Korea DPR, means that Neid's charges cannot afford to drop their guard if they hope to progress. Hingst certainly will not be falling into the trap of underestimating either team: "I'm expecting a lot from the Koreans. They were incredibly strong at the last World Cup even if their stamina ultimately let them down. I'm sure they'll have worked hard to improve in this area," she said.

Hingst is less sure what to expect from the Nigerians, claiming that "they are very unpredictable. Either they play breathtaking football or are over-complicated and clumsy." Comparing the three groups, she added: "We've ended up in the hardest group."

Those familiar with the team built around the experienced Hingst, Prinz and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer will know the ambitious trio revel in challenges like these. Their opponents would also be well advised not to underestimate a German team desperate to capture the only title that has so far eluded them. And if ever the Germans fail to find their fluency in a game, the outspoken Berliner Ariane Hingst can always be relied on to articulate the right words at the right time.