Germany's Leonie Maier has enjoyed a rapid rise since her international debut in February and the full-back told UEFA.com how much she is looking forward to proving her worth at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden.
Less than five months ago the 20-year-old – who learned to play by having casual kickabouts with her older brothers Manuel, Simon and Jonas – earned her first senior cap in a 3-3 friendly draw against France in Strasbourg.
Not many people expected Maier to have such an immediate impact and for her to quickly establish herself as an essential member of the team. The Stuttgart-born defender scored her first goal in a friendly against Canada last week, now has eight caps to her name and is a likely starter against the Netherlands in Germany's opening Group B game on 11 July.
"I am surprised that things went that well – it is still like a dream and I am really happy about it," Maier told UEFA.com. "But that's what I have worked for and now I can reap what I have sown. I am glad to help my team and to have an impact." However, the defender is no stranger to success having triumphed on the international stage at the Under-17 European Championship in 2009 and the U19 equivalent two years later.
"There is a huge difference playing in the senior team," she added. "I needed to get used the fact that everything is faster, more physical, more technical and the tackles are rougher. You are playing with experienced players. You can learn a lot just by watching them – that's something special."
The FC Bayern München player enjoys testing herself against the world's best and is continuing to learn from games such as the 3-3 draw against the United States in April. "If you can cope with these kind of players who are physically strong you can cope with other teams, too," she said.
Indeed, Maier's performance in that game earned her special praise from US boss Tom Sermanni. "I like the little blonde girl with shirt No25," he said when asked about the Germany side by daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "She is a good footballer with a great understanding of the game. She is like a young dog."
In a 3-0 friendly win against Scotland, Maier played as a midfielder instead of in her usual right-back role, but even a change of position does not faze her. "It is an honour to play for the team, so I would even play as a goalkeeper if the coach says I should do so," she continued. "I am a down-to-earth person – that is the best way to become successful. That's what I have learned from my family and the Swabians have a reputation of being more modest."
Maier also had her say on wearing the shirt No4 shirt in Sweden and having the right balance in the Germany squad. "It is an honour for me, as Babett Peter was wearing No4 before and she is a very good and experienced player," added Maier. "I will try to give my best. It won't be easy, but we still have a good mix of experienced and young players who are really hungry and want to grab their chance."
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