Last year something unique happened – Germany did not win the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, something coach Ralf Peter is determined to put right.
Peter led Germany to convincing victories in the first two final tournaments in 2008 and 2009, but their hat-trick bid was derailed by a last-four defeat at the hands of the Republic of Ireland. Germany are back in Nyon again this time around, the only side to have made all four final tournaments at the Swiss venue, with France – who Peter's side have knocked out in all three previous seasons – awaiting in the semis on Thursday ahead of a possible decider against holders Spain or Iceland.
"Our semi-final exit at the hands of Ireland was a shock at that time and something we certainly hadn't expected," Peter told UEFA.com. "In that respect I'm pleased to be playing against France this year because, in my eyes, they're the strongest of our three opponents. It will force my girls to concentrate throughout the match, something they will have to do. It won't be enough to win at 80% against such a tactically astute team."
The groundwork for a successful tournament has been put in place over the summer. "We've learnt a lot in recent weeks and I must say, my players have handled their individual training exercises very well," Peter added. "This is where I work closely with their respective clubs and coaches, which seems to be very effective.
"After we finished the second qualifying round with three wins and a 17-0 goal record, the title is all that matters. This year I have an abundance of attacking options to choose from and the problematic details in defence are certainly something we can get to grips with."
Having had the prolific likes of Alexandra Popp and Kyra Malinowski to call on in the first two final tournaments, a lack of firepower proved a problem last year, but not this. "Fabienne Dongus is almost guaranteed to score, while Sara Däbritz and Lena Petermann have both proven dangerous in front of goal too," Peter said.
"However, I don't want to rely just on our attacking quality to be successful. We've put in some fantastic team performances and Lina Magull or Melanie Leupolz have just as important a role to play if we are to reach our targets."
Popp, of course, went on to break into Germany's squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup and Peter believes there will be more to follow. "With Alex I had no doubt that she'd be able to make the step up, but I've got a lot of talented players in my current squad too. If Magull and Leupolz continue to develop as they've done so far, they too can take it to the next level."
Although the senior side exited the World Cup in the quarter-finals, the surge in interest surrounding German women's football has spread to Peter's team. "In our training sessions, we had three camera crews accompanying us, something I was not used to at all," he said. "It made me proud to see the interest we had generated and I'm confident we can take a little slice of this euphoria with us to Switzerland."
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