Germany has the most players in their squad who have played at youth World Cups
Voss-Tecklenburg says youth tournament experience is “particularly important”
Giulia Gwinn won Player of the Match in first U-17, U-20 and senior World Cup appearances
The Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport, where dreams can be realised, heroes made and legacies laid down. The players on show are the most technically gifted the sport has to showcase, but reaching that level doesn’t come overnight.
The pathway that players take can be key in their development and progression in the game, and their experience gained at youth World Cups can be a vital component in their performance at a senior World Cup.
There are 235 players in France who have played for their country at a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, with 23 of those playing in last year’s edition in France. One country who is benefitting from players having participated at youth tournaments is Germany.
Head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has 15 players in her squad of 23 that have played at both the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup, while 21 of them have appeared at the U-20 tournament. The average age of the squad as a whole, is just over 25 – only six teams are younger.
With the likes of forward Klara Buhl, midfielder Lena Oberdorf, and the versatile Giulia Gwinn all stepping into the senior team since playing for the U-20s, there are a number of approaches that the senior team staff take to aid their development, which includes allowing their players to learn from their errors.
“We have to give young players time to develop,” Voss-Tecklenburg said. “Trust is also a key factor in this. I want them to know that they are also allowed to make mistakes.
“Learning from your mistakes is part and parcel of developing. We want to build them up gently and not put too much pressure on them.”
Germany came through their group in France with a 100 per cent record, with a number of their youngsters featuring. A hard-fought 1-0 win in their opener was achieved thanks to Gwinn, who has raised eyebrows with her performances in the early stages of the tournament, despite still only being 19.
She was named player of the match in the fixture, which meant she had achieved a unique treble having also won the same accolade in her first matches at the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups.
The win over China PR was Gwinn’s first competitive start for Germany, and Voss-Tecklenburg was full of praise for her defender, and knew she was something special.
“She has everything that a footballer needs,” she said. “She has game intelligence, but she is also fast, tactically astute and blessed with excellent technique. She’s also very versatile.”
Gwinn pointed to the “tactical discipline, team spirit and the flexibility to play in different systems” that she learnt in the German youth teams that aided her transition into the senior team, while she also praised the coaching received, from the likes of World Cup winner Maren Meinert.
“Our youth teams have very good coaches, people we learn a lot from,” Gwinn said. “Some of them are also former players, so they know what they are talking about and they also understand the players’ mindset too.”
Of course, talent and development will take you a long way, but when coming into a major tournament, experience can give you that added edge having been used to that big game environment and the schedule that accompanies the competition. Voss-Tecklenburg believes youth tournaments offer valuable experience for players in a number of areas, which makes them better prepared for senior competitions.
“Tournament matches are a particularly important experience for young players. Every single competitive match helps them develop.
“They are gaining fantastic experience at youth level, even though the standard is obviously higher at senior level.” Youngster Gwinn agrees, describing her first call up to the German youth national team as “fantastic” and something she would “never forget,” highlighting knockout matches as crucial experience, which could be key as her team go into their round of 16 game against Nigeria.
“It’s very important, because the processes are always the same, whether it’s at a youth World Cup or a senior World Cup.
“There’s just more attention on you at a senior World Cup. Playing in knockout matches is also an important experience, and one that I can learn a lot from.”
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.