Everyone, so the saying goes, has to start somewhere. It is a maxim that is particularly fitting for Sara Dabritz, who has a gold medal in her sights with Germany's women's team on Friday. The now 21-year-old caught the eye with some dazzling performances back in 2012 at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan, where many onlookers recognised her enormous potential and considered her one of the stars of the competition.
Countless other players have proven that the U-17 Women's World Cup can serve as a springboard to a successful career. Two examples include Alexandra Popp and Dzsenifer Marozsan, who both got their first taste of a FIFA Women's World Cup™ at an U-17 tournament. "Both of them are definitely role models for me," said Dabritz at Azerbaijan 2012. "They've already achieved so much at such a young age. It's incredible. They're still pretty young and are already in the senior national side. You can definitely learn a thing or two from them."
Four years on, Dabritz is now a cornerstone of coach Silvia Neid's side herself, and is playing alongside her idols in their quest for a title. "Sara's developed extremely well in all areas," said Neid. "She's shown that progress in impressive style at the Olympics and has performed very well." That good form has translated into goals, and whenever the Amberg native is on the pitch, opposition defenders need to be on guard: Dabritz has scored three times so far in Brazil, most recently in the semi-final against Canada.
"It was crucial because that goal made it 2-0, which gave us much more security," the talented midfielder told FIFA.com. "It was important in terms of the flow of the game too, because Canada were putting us under pressure. It really did us good. But even at 2-0 you can't ease off. Things happen so quickly in football. If Canada had scored then we'd probably have lost our way a bit. It was good that we kept them out. We defended superbly throughout the entire game and towards the end we sat back a little bit more as Canada pressed. But we withstood their pressure."
* From Belo Horizonte to Rio*The Bayern Munich star is well aware what it takes to win titles. In 2013 she helped Germany win the European Championship and the following year she was triumphant at the U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada. The fact that she is now participating at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament is the proverbial icing on the cake. "The Olympics are hugely significant for me," Dabritz said. "Every young player aims to play in the senior national team one day and to take part in a major tournament. The Olympics are something completely different because it's the biggest sporting event in the world. It's very special to be here."
Her target now is to crown the whole experience with a gold medal. The day after beating Canada, Germany made their way to Rio, where they will face Sweden in the final on Friday. And Dabritz is eagerly looking forward to visiting the city.
"We'll get to experience the Olympic flavour," she explained. "We'll be in the Olympic Village. And to be able to see how it all works is obviously fantastic. But we're focusing on the match. We've only got two days to recover. It's unbelievable to think that we'll be playing at the Maracana. That was our aim during our preparations for the tournament. We had this objective and this dream and now we've fulfilled it. Now we want to win the game."