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It is quite a while since Germany did not win either the FIFA Women's World Cup or UEFA European Women's Championship – the 1999 global event to be precise. That run began with UEFA Women's EURO 2001 on home soil, and the pressure is on Silvia Neid to mirror that when the World Cup kicks off on home soil on Sunday, fresh from extending her contract until 2016.
Neid was assistant to Tina Theune-Meyer for the EURO 1997, 2001 and 2005 triumphs as well as the 2003 World Cup win, and since taking over as head coach has successfully defended both titles. Five of the 2001 squad will be part of Neid's party – goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, defender Linda Bresonik, midfielder Ariane Hingst and forwards Birgit Prinz and Martina Müller – but since taking over the coach has had to deal with retirements from the likes of Silke Rottenberg, Steffi Jones and Renate Lingor.
"On one hand you have to prevent the team breaking up," Neid told UEFA.com. "So when older players retire you need new young players to balance it out; that's always very difficult to achieve. You need to constantly integrate young players and develop them step by step. On the other hand, you always need to keep the older players motivated and have them still playing in the team. Then of course you need to be motivated, to keep that hunger for success. If that is not present then you can't win."
That certainly goes for the likes of Prinz and Hingst, who have won all the game has to offer multiple times but remain stellar performers. "I just ask them the question, if they there are still motivated enough and willing to train twice a day. 'Do you still want to do that? Can you still picture yourself training in winter with the snow, and training in the evening on a hard pitch? Are you still up for it? Do you still want to go to your personal limit again?' And if she then answers, 'Yes, I want to,' then I say, 'OK let's do it, all together.' That's a clear statement for me, and I can start planning her in. That normally works."
As she contemplates the opener against Canada in front of a European female record crowd of around 80,000 in Berlin, with Nigeria and France to come in Group A, Neid – who played in the first German women's international in November 1982 – cannot overstate how far the game has come in those three decades. "Oh my God, there is a big difference in terms of technique, athletics and speed," she said. "Everything around it has become more professional. In 1982 we had one assistant coach, one physiotherapist, one doctor and a kit manager. So it was five people in total. Today I have around 25 people in my staff.
"Women's football is respected and accepted in our football federation and here in Germany, in general. I would need to cut myself into pieces to be able to manage all these interviews, so there is a huge interest in it. I hope it goes on like that, and develops even further. We won't stop anyway, I don't think it stops here, it will go on and on."
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