Germany captain Annabel Jäger has experienced some difficult times at club level, but recent performances at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship have given her a lift.
Germany have impressed in south-west Wales, dominating possession in 5-0 and 2-0 wins against Norway and Sweden respectively that booked a semi-final spot even before Sunday's final Group B game against Finland. "We had not anticipated that," Jäger told UEFA.com. "Good preparations for this tournament have been the foundations of our success." Last year's failure to reach the finals has also instilled hunger among the older players, making them "extra motivated", if Maren Meinert's sides ever need that.
The past 12 months have not been easy either for the 19-year-old Jäger, a technically gifted midfielder who had arrived at VfL Wolfsburg from FC Gütersloh 2000 last summer. While Wolfsburg celebrated an all-conquering campaign which ended in a first UEFA Women's Champions League triumph, Jäger was a peripheral figure. She has moved to promoted BV Cloppenburg this summer seeking more first-team opportunities.
"I think I have overcome my low a bit now, but I still have room for improvement. I hope I can further improve in coming games," she said. "Maybe it also had to do with me lacking match practice. I hope things are better at Cloppenburg, but the club have told me to focus on the European Championship first."
And she has. In a strong Germany side she has been a commanding presence, capping a lively presence against Sweden by setting up Pauline Bremer's second of the game. "We are a very attacking side, our midfielders attack a lot and I think that is one of the things that characterises us as a team, while also not neglecting defensive work."
The approach and its rewards so far has further cemented Germany as firm favourites for the title, not that it fazes their No7. "I believe other countries like to make us favourites to ease the pressure on them – we just focus on ourselves," said Jäger.
With qualification for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, the pre-tournament goal, under their belts, Jäger, whose name translates as hunter, has set new targets. "Now we want it all, to reach the final and win the cup. Every game with Germany lets you take something from it, you always develop. I hope we can show everyone what we are capable of."
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