Eleanor Roosevelt, the human rights activist and wife of former USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” This famous quote from one of the most influential women in the country's 20th-century politics is an inspiration in itself. For Germany midfielder Lena Goessling, the immediate future looks bright indeed.
The Wolfsburg star is set to fulfil a long-held dream of playing at an Olympic Games with Germany this year, and she intends to savour the experience. “I always dreamed of playing at the Olympics,” she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “It’s something special for every professional athlete. I don’t think you can compare it to a World Cup or a European championship. There are so many different sports. The focus isn’t just on football but on every sport and event.”
Germany’s women’s team claimed the bronze medal in three straight tournaments between 2000 and 2008, but this year, Sylvia Neid’s talented outfit intend to finally buck that trend by winning gold. “We have a big squad with a lot of quality,” said Goessling. “We’re gunning for the title and we’ll give it everything to bring the trophy back to Germany.”
Not far off the USAThe Bielefeld native has good reason to be confident. At the SheBelieves Cup in the USA in March, Germany beat the likes of England and France and only succumbed to a narrow defeat against the hosts and reigning world champions. Aside from the FIFA Women's World Cup™, a women’s football tournament had never been contested by so many high-quality sides, and Goessling believes the experience has played a major part in the team’s development. “We tried a lot of things out in that tournament,” she said. “We were able to gain good experience and experiment with playing different systems once or twice. A lot of players got given a run-out and you saw that we’re not that far off the USA.”
The Americans will also be in bullish mood heading into the Olympic Games having won gold at the last three tournaments. Moreover, inspirational goalkeeper Hope Solo has already thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the competition by claiming, “We’ll give our last breath to win gold!” Although confident in her side’s chances of holding their own, Goessling is under no illusions about the threat posed by the world’s top-ranked team. “The USA are always really confident and we know how good they are. They’re obviously the favourites going into the tournament – they’re the reigning world champions at the end of the day. I suppose you’re allowed to be confident if you’re in that position.”
The side skippered by Carli Lloyd may sit top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking, but they are not the only team that could threaten Germany’s chances of glory. “France are also definitely one of the favourites to win,” said Goessling. “Like ourselves and the USA, they play really good football. Brazil are the hosts but they’re a little harder to assess right now, although they could surprise us, who knows? They’re playing in front of their own fans and the pressure on them might be higher than usual. We know what that’s like: it can spur you on or it can be too much.”
Club first, then countryHere the 30-year-old is of course referring to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, when Goessling’s side were eliminated by Japan in the quarter-finals, missing out on qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London in the process. The disappointment of that defeat is now behind them, however, with the player looking ahead to the tests in store in Group F this year.
“We know nothing about Zimbabwe. They’re a surprise package. African teams play with a lot of physicality and tend to go into the tackles pretty hard. We know about Canada and Australia, they’re both good teams. It won’t be a walk in the park by any means. It’s a tough group but our target is obviously to qualify for the next round,” said Germany’s women’s footballer of the year for 2015.
Yet before taking to the field in Brazil, her full focus is on the remainder of the season with Wolfsburg and the possibility of lifting the treble of the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League. “I’m concentrating on my club. We have some tough tests coming up. We’ve already got the DFB Cup final, but we’re aiming to reach the Champions League final and we obviously want to win more trophies. When we’ve done that, then I’ll start looking ahead to the national team. First we need absolute focus on Wolfsburg. After that comes the Olympics.”