Grings' explosive return

It has been a long, 12-year wait, but Germany sharp-shooter Inka Grings will feel it has been worth it. The last time the striker scored at a FIFA Women's World Cup™ was the 1999 finals in the USA, when she bagged a hat-trick in a 6–0 rout of Mexico. On Tuesday evening, she netted a decisive brace in the hosts' 4–2 victory over France, adding her name to the scorers list at Germany 2011. Quite apart from anything else, the 32-year-old's patience is a marvel in itself.

The German striker wowed a capacity crowd in Monchengladbach with a dynamic display, peppered with moments of instinctive skill. She put her side 2–0 up before half-time with a powerful header, and then beat substitute keeper Celine Deville from the penalty spot just when the whiff of an upset hung in the air. Grings showed all her class in converting her chances, and the record books merely emphasise her quality: she has a superior strike rate in a Germany shirt than the tournament's all-time leading scorer Birgit Prinz. It will only ever be a matter of conjecture, but you have to wonder what might have been had she not missed the 2003 and 2007 editions of the tournament with injury and for personal reasons.

“It's a really wonderful feeling! My aim was to fit in with the team as fast as possible and make sure I got into the match. It really went well today. I was so looking forward to the game and set my sights extremely high," Grings declared after the FIFA Women's World Cup holders secured top spot in Group A with their third win on the bounce. There was a note of relief in the striker's voice too, with good reason. First, Grings and Co finally came somewhere close to their true potential after distinctly average displays in the first two matches, and second, Grings repaid coach Silvia Neid's faith in handling her a first start of the tournament.

This team has come together now. It'll do us all the world of good. “This team has come together now. It'll do us all the world of good," Grings said with a smile, although the Dusseldorf-born player’s focus on the team cannot hide her vital contribution as an individual. In truth, the Germans urgently require Grings, considered a gifted but hard-to-handle character earlier in her career, to prove her world-class quality right now, filling the gap left by the industrious but off-form Prinz.

Speaking exclusively to in the build-up to the tournament, the Germany No8 was characteristically open and forthright about her dreams and ambitions. "I've achieved a lot but I've never won the World Cup. When you play at the highest level, that's basically what you're aiming for. I know the World Cup is the ultimate highlight – and it’s here in Germany this time. It couldn't be any better. It's a dream come true for me, and I'll do everything in my power to secure a happy ending. I'm really fired up for the tournament!"

The first stage of the tournament is now over, and Grings has hit her stride at exactly the right time. The six-time top scorer in the German Women's Bundesliga and winner of the adidas Golden Boot at the last two UEFA Women's EUROs, who has an astonishing 353 goals in 271 matches for FCR Duisburg, is now very much in the spotlight. Thanks to her brace against the French she has become the current darling of the German press, although the role should be well within her grasp due to her vast experience and media savvy. And should Prinz escape her current trough, few would bet against the FIFA Women's World Cup hosts powering on to the latter stages of the showpiece event.