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2008: Alexandra Popp

Germany's versatile Alexandra Popp was the star of the first UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship and three years later went to the FIFA Women's World Cup.
by Paul Saffer
2008: Alexandra Popp
Alexandra Popp celebrates Germany's 2008 win ©Sportsfile

2008: Alexandra Popp

Germany's versatile Alexandra Popp was the star of the first UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship and three years later went to the FIFA Women's World Cup.

The UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship was launched in 2007/08 to give the same chance to developing female players that their male counterparts had enjoyed for years. It was an opportunity immediately grabbed by Alexandra Popp.

By the time of those first finals in 2008, Germany were already reigning senior and U19 European champions while 1. FFC Frankfurt held the UEFA Women's Cup. Germany were favourites to win the inaugural edition, and even more so after scoring 35 goals in their six qualifying wins. Popp contributed ten of those goals and although she failed to score in the 1-0 semi-final defeat of Denmark, she was on target again in the final as France succumbed 3-0, raising her season tally to an unrivalled 11.

Surprisingly, given her prolific record, Popp was posted on the left wing during the tournament. She is also adept at full-back and that is where she has often found herself since leaving 1. FFC Recklinghausen for FCR 2001 Duisburg in 2008. In the season following the European U17 triumph, Popp was a regular starter for Duisburg in their maiden UEFA Women's Cup victory, save for a sojourn in New Zealand where she helped Germany to a FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup bronze medal.

Popp continued to mature and her next landmark came in the summer of 2010. Picked to lead the line for hosts Germany at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, she delighted packed home crowds by scoring in every game of their triumph, equalling Christine Sinclair's tournament-record tally of 10 goals and earning the adidas Golden Ball as best player.

By then Popp had already made her senior Germany debut against Korea DPR on 17 February 2010 – netting her first two goals against Finland nine days later. Though playing in defence for Duisburg the following season, Popp became Germany's regular supersub in their FIFA Women's World Cup build-up – notching five goals in three games immediately before the finals where the hosts reached the last eight.

Appropriately for the player identified by many as Birgit Prinz's long-term successor, Popp has also trained in physiotherapy, as well as being the only woman to attend FC Schalke 04's elite football school. 

Last updated: 19/07/11 17.38CET

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