The 2005 UEFA European Women's Championship may only have ended recently, but already the coaches and administrators of this continent's leading nations are attempting to work out just how they can stop Germany making it five victories in succession in 2009.
Germany were typically unstoppable over the two-week tournament in the north-west of England, scoring 15 goals and conceding two in winning all five of their games. Norway, Italy and France were beaten 1-0, 4-0 and 3-0 as Tina Theune-Meyer's side topped Group B, earning a semi-final date with Finland, who were similarly dispatched, going down 4-1 in Preston after being 3-0 behind inside 12 minutes.
Finland coach Michael Käld heaped praise on Germany in defeat, saying: "They're so strong, so good in every position. They showed us that we have to train harder. Germany are able to switch from defence to offence without hesitation and are so powerful. They only give opposition players a second or two to make a decision, if you take two or three touches they're all over you."
Queens of Europe
Norway had given Germany their toughest test en route to the final and again played passionately in the Blackburn showpiece. Indeed, they would have gone in level at 2-2 at half-time if Stine Frantzen's strike was not ruled out for offside on 43 minutes, a decision from which Germany never looked back. Birgit Prinz made it 3-1 shortly after the hour, adding to goals from Inka Grings and Renate Lingor, and Germany were again queens of Europe.
It was their sixth European Championship success and a third under Theune-Meyer - the victorious coach will now hand control to assistant Silvia Neid. A talented trainer renowned for her painstaking work in perfecting her sides, Theune-Meyer has forged a magnificent squad of players "into a team who really stick together". She added: "Eight players have more than 100 caps but the team still works just as that."
None of those centurions are expected to retire immediately, with goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg dismissing claims she would be the first from this all-conquering lineup to call time on her international career. She told uefa.com: "We want to qualify for the [FIFA Women's] World Cup and I hope I can play in 2007. I have had so much fun with football, I hope that can continue."
Unlike their opponents at EURO, Germany have quality in every position, a talented bench and another exciting crop of talent knocking loudly on the door. Of the squad that won the FIFA U19 World Championship last November, only Anja Mittag was in the 20 for EURO. Theune-Meyer said: "We have a very good structure, and from the age of 15 players have very good coaches and it works like a conveyor belt to the senior team."
Germany celebrated their success long into the night, meaning blurry eyes were the order of the day as fans and dignitaries greeted the side at Frankfurt airport yesterday. The staff and team then followed in the footsteps of the German men's squads that won the 1990 FIFA World Cup and EURO '96™ by signing the Golden Book of Frankfurt in the presence of the city's mayor Achim Vandreike.
Those male teams displayed their trophies at Frankfurt's landmark Römer building, an honour the women refused. "We don't want to draw comparisons with our men's side and we do not want to copy them," said Prinz. Except in glory, of course.
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