Billed as Germany's most exciting new talent going into the 2011 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals, Ramona Petzelberger gloriously lived up to her billing in north-east Italy. Even coach Maren Meinert, always sparing with her praise, acknowledged her skipper had enjoyed a "great tournament", adding: "I told everyone that they had to watch my No10 because she's a great player."
Indeed, it was her link-up play between attack and defence that perhaps set the SC 07 Bad Neuenahr forward apart in a tournament when the likes of Norway's Melissa Bjånesøy also came to prominence. Petzelberger adopted a position behind the lone striker and was almost like a reverse libero, given licence to drop off and hunt the ball and space; vacating it for others to break into in the process.
It worked to devastating effect. Time and again Meinert's charges broke down opposition defences – only an inability to match their slick approach play with clinical finishing held them back. It increased the pressure to create opportunities, to hammer at the door until finally someone forced the ball in.
The mature Petzelberger, a veteran of Germany's 2009 UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship-winning side, took it in her stride, persevering; not allowing frustrations to get the better of her. She broke the deadlock in the semi-final against Switzerland though, after the underdogs equalised; her clever, low free-kick that enabled Eunice Beckmann to restore Germany's advantage was just as important.
And in the final, after Petzelberger set up Louisa Wensing's opening goal with a well-taken corner, it all clicked into place. By the time she got on the scoresheet with a thunderous volley just before the hour her side were well on course for a record-breaking 8-1 win. It was some consolation to missing the previous year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup through injury.
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