Nadine Kessler is living the dream at her first UEFA European Women's Championship and despite it coming at the end of a long hard season, which also included triumph in the UEFA Women's Champions League, she says she is 100 per cent focused on the task in hand.
For Germany that means tackling the old enemy Norway with the leadership of Group B at stake – both teams are on four points and clear favourites to progress. They have a history of important summit meetings, memories of encounters in three senior European and one FIFA Women's World Cup final, and clashed as recently as March when Germany won 2-0 to seal their group top spot in the Algarve Cup.
Kessler scored the second goal that day but predicts the game in Kalmar will be an entirely different affair. "I'm sure Norway will give everything to make life difficult for us," she said. "We know they are an aggressive team and like against Iceland, we have to give 100 per cent from the beginning, play our game and win this match."
Even though the season has been extended far into the summer and there have been injuries along the way for the VfL Wolfsburg midfielder – breaks have made it necessary to have screws in both her hand and toe – the thrill of competing on this stage for the first time ensures that her petrol tank is never likely to run dry.
"This is the first time I have played in the EURO and I can think of nothing bigger," she added. "But even if you are in your second or third EURO the motivation is still high. You are playing for Germany and that should be enough for any player. The most important thing is that you make a good preparation before the season. I have had only minor injuries and I now feel 100 per cent fit. The screws will be removed when the time comes, they don't bother me right now."
Even if Germany were to lose – something that has never happened against these opponents in the EURO finals – the only way they would finish third and face possible elimination were if the Netherlands beat Iceland by enough to take second spot on goal difference or goals scored. With the knockout rounds so close, the temptation is surely to start thinking about likely quarter-final challengers.
Kessler says while they have been watching the games to be better informed about the other nations it is too early to give serious consideration to who they might face along the way. And it is also dangerous, she asserts, to consider playing for one point tomorrow when a draw is enough to send the reigning champions through. "Playing for a draw is not a good idea. It is very dangerous and often does not work out. We are eager to win the match and go forward as group winners with a good points' tally."
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