The 2011 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals was a memorable tournament for those that witnessed it first hand, but for Ramona Petzelberger it represented a coming of age.
In the build-up to the finals in Italy, the SC 07 Bad Neuenahr forward was billed as Germany's brightest prospect. In a country where women's football carries widespread national interest, considerable pressure was brought to bear on the young Germany No10 to bring home a trophy that had eluded the favourites for four years.
The 18-year-old did not disappoint, showing a maturity that belied her age with a series of outstanding displays, captaining Germany to victory, and scoring in the stunning 8-1 final defeat of Norway. "It was a great feeling," Petzelberger, now 19, told UEFA.com. "We prepared very well, and managed to show everything we'd learned and practiced in training. You dream a lot about winning a title, and we made it happen again, and it was great."
If Germany was well-drilled for the task in hand credit is due to their coach Maren Meinert, who cut short her maternity leave in time to inspire the squad to victory. "Her influence was very important," said Petzelberger. "She brings personal experience, she won titles herself, and she just embodies that winning spirit."
Meinert was not the only secret to Germany's success. "On the one hand I think we had a great team spirit, which helped us on and off the pitch," continued Petzelberger. "We had not just technically strong but also physically strong players. So we had everything in the team. We just wanted to win this title, and that's why I think that the spirit we had was our strength."
The 8-1 final defeat of Norway in Imola was not the first time Petzelberger had tasted international glory, however. In 2009 she was in the Germany side that claimed the Women's U17 crown with a similarly emphatic 7-0 win against Spain; an experience she believes was invaluable in whetting her appetite for further silverware – beginning with her nation's defence of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
When you know what it feels like to win a title, you then get hungry for more success, you just want to feel and experience it again. It [the U17 finals] was a different level, no question about that, and this was more difficult, but that first win helps you a lot.
"If we stay together like this we can achieve a lot. You could see that already at the European U19 Championship. We have to continue to be hungry for success and work hard, and not relax and settle for the titles we have won, because then we won't make it very far, and all the other nations will overtake us."
Though polite and easygoing on the outside, there is a clearly an inner determination that is driving Petzelberger on to bigger and better things, and the precocious teenager hopes to emulate the likes of Alexandra Popp and Kim Kulig, who at the age of 20 and 21 years respectively, featured in this summer's FIFA World Cup.
"They are young, they are hungry and they just want to win," said Petzelberger of the two players she regards as role models. "I think they really embody the sport they live for. They [Popp and Kulig] are players who are close to us, because they are our age, maybe just a bit older, and it just shows that younger players can also make it into the senior team."
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