By Mark Bennett
With her seven goals in the FIFA Women's World Cup, Birgit Prinz played a major part in Germany's first-ever global triumph.
Despite only being 25, Prinz can already look back on 110 caps for her country. She made her debut for the national team at the age of 16 in July 1994 and since then the striker has scored 61 goals for her country. But it is the seven she scored in the United States that earned her the World Cup's Golden Shoe as leading striker and Golden Ball as top player that has ensured her place in women's football legend.
Although Germany needed a golden goal to beat Sweden in the final, prior to that match they scored 23 goals in five games, including a 7-1 win against Russia in the last eight followed by a 3-0 defeat of the United States, hot favourites to retain the trophy on home soil. And Prinz's goals played a huge part, two coming against Russia and another in added time against the US.
Team-work the key
However, the 1. FFC Frankfurt forward puts her - and Germany's - success down to team-work. "Scoring seven goals and being voted player of the tournament is great, but I could not have done it without the rest of the team," she said. "
A single player cannot win the World Cup. It is a team effort and we were the best side this time around."
Parade of honours
Still, that single player is not short of honours. Even before her spectacular World Cup, she had helped win the 1995, 1997 and 2001 UEFA Women's Championships, claimed an Olympic bronze medal in 2000 and celebrated a UEFA Women's Cup victory with Frankfurt in 2002, along with six Bundesliga titles and seven German cup wins, completing four domestic doubles in 2002 with North American WUSA team Carolina Courage.
Most important success
Despite all of her triumphs, though, the latest victorious campaign comes first on her list. "
The World Cup is the most important trophy in the business," Prinz said on her return to Germany. "Furthermore it was Germany's first ever success in the competition and therefore it ranks first on my list."
'She needs a break'
Having rejoined Frankfurt after the collapse of the fully-professional WUSA, she may now delay her domestic comeback after her transatlantic exertions. "We have not yet decided when she will make her first appearance after the World Cup because she has been playing football non-stop for years now and we all realise that she needs a break," explained Birgit's father and manager Stefan Prinz on Frankfurt's official homepage.
None the less, she makes no secret of her feelings for WUSA, which may yet be revived. "It was a great experience playing professional football over in America and if things get going back over there I would think about returning. It was the best league in the world and the experience helped me lift my game," explained Prinz, with modesty considering she scored 12 goals in only 15 games in her first WUSA season.
Much to prove
Her former Carolina coach Jay Entlich said: "She is one of the most dominating players in the world. Birgit Prinz's size, strength, and tactical mind make her almost impossible to stop. Her competitiveness is also what separates her from your average player." Prinz herself believes she still has plenty to learn, though. "I am only 25 and have so much to improve," she said. "
Nobody has reached their full potential at my age."
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