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Marina Hegering's long road to the top with Germany

The Germany defender has had a hard time with injuries but is now relishing the chance to live her dream at UEFA Women's EURO 2022.

Marina Hegering has been a cornerstone of Germany's campaign so far
Marina Hegering has been a cornerstone of Germany's campaign so far UEFA via Getty Images

Marina Hegering may be flying high with Germany at UEFA Women's EURO 2022, but getting there has been far from easy for the 32-year-old.

Having had to overcome more than her share of setbacks, the defender has fought hard to carve out a place for herself at the heart of Germany's back line, even when it once seemed her dream of being a professional footballer would be cut short.

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After playing with boys' teams until the age of 16, Hegering moved to Women's Bundesliga side Duisburg in 2007, going on to win the UEFA Women's Cup and celebrate two German Cup victories. Her coach at the time? None other than current Germany boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.

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A key player for Germany at youth level, Hegering was part of the squad that won the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup on home soil in 2010, alongside Alex Popp, Almuth Schult, Svenja Huth and Dzsenifer Marozsán. With the 1.70m-tall defender already being spoken about as one to watch in German football, her burgeoning career was stalled by a heel injury suffered at the end of the 2010/11 season.

The injury itself was "nothing serious," according to Hegering, but despite undergoing surgery on a number of occasions, the wound struggled to heal properly. In the end, it kept her sidelined off and on for nearly six years.

"It was a very long and not so pleasant period, but I got past it," she told UEFA.com as Germany prepare to meet Austria in the quarter-finals. "It was very tedious but in the end it was worth it. I was also able to learn a lot during this time, both related and unrelated to football, even if I wasn't able to actually play."

Hegering in action against Finland on Matchday 3
Hegering in action against Finland on Matchday 3Getty Images

During that time, the Bocholt native focused on completing her education and teaching herself guitar, while contemplating whether it would be best to hang up her boots altogether. After several comeback attempts, she was able to cobble together a few appearances for both SGS Essen and Bayer Leverkusen, but they were nothing more than shortlived forays back on the pitch.

She persisted nevertheless and was finally able to return in 2017, eventually earning her senior Germany debut in April 2019 at the age of 28. Voss-Tecklenburg included her in the squad for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, where Hegering played the full 90 minutes of all five matches. "I had given up hope of ever playing football at such a level again," she said at the time.

Hegering hasn't remained completely injury-free since then, however, and faced a race to regain fitness for this summer's EURO. "I recovered in time to get back to training and even play a few games again," said Hegering, the oldest player in Germany's squad. "If it had been any later then it definitely wouldn't have been possible. [I'm grateful] they had faith in me and called me up to train so that I could try to prove myself."

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She has certainly done that. Germany have been bolstered by her return and Hegering has started all three tournament games so far, even being named Player of the Match in the 2-0 victory over Spain.

She brings much-needed physicality, experience and robustness to the back line, qualities which have earned her the playful nickname of 'Maschina' [Machine] from team-mate Sara Doorsoun.

"[Marina is] a big presence and is solid as a rock when we need her," said fellow defender Giulia Gwinn. "Even now, after having not played for so long, she's always there and you can count on her. She gives you this feeling of security when you're playing alongside her."

As for Hegering, who recently announced her switch from Bayern to Wolfsburg, where she will eventually take up a position on the coaching staff, she is enjoying every moment of finally being able to live her dream – no matter how long it may have taken her to get there.

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