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Surprised Neid aims to justify FIFA coach prize

Silvia Neid, who has led Germany to world and European titles, felt undeserving of her FIFA World Coach of the Year award but hopes to prove she was a worthy recipient as 2011 unfolds.

Silvia Neid accepts her award in Zurich
Silvia Neid accepts her award in Zurich ©AFP

Ahead of the FIFA Ballon D'Or Gala, it was clear to many that Silvia Neid, just like José Mourinho in the men's category, was the favourite to claim the FIFA World Coach of the Year for women's football. Yet in the face of competition from her compatriot Maren Meinert, Germany's FIFA U-20 World Cup-winning coach, and Swedish technician Pia Sundhage of the United States, Neid herself did not share this confidence.

Neid admitted after receiving her award that she was surprised by the decision. Speaking to FIFA.com, the 46-year-old said: "I must admit I wasn't expecting that, mainly because I didn't have much to do in 2010. We weren't involved in any tournaments, which is ultimately why I thought Maren Meinert would be given the award, as she won the U-20 Women's World Cup with her team. It went my way instead and I'm incredibly happy to be presented with such a prestigious award. Perhaps it was based on the last couple of years as I don't believe I deserved the award based purely on 2010."

Her record at the helm of the German women's national team is almost as impressive as a playing career in which Neid won every possible accolade with her country. After retiring she assisted senior coach Tina Theune-Mayer and led Germany to 2004 FIFA U-20 World Cup success before taking over the top job the next year and winning the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup – a prize they will hope to defend this summer on home soil. Germany took the bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and her side then stole the show yet again at UEFA Women's EURO 2009 where they emerged as champions for the fifth tournament running.

Neid's contribution has earned her an Order of Merit and the Silver Bay Laurel Leaf, the most prestigious sporting accolade in Germany, which she received from the then German president, Horst Köhler, in 2007. It all sounds too good to be true but she reveals that at one point in 2005 it was not clear whether she would take the reins of the national team.

"If it weren't for Dr Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Association (DFB), I'd never have become the national coach," Neid said. "When Tina called time on her career, I actually didn't want to take the job. I was happy doing what I was doing and I enjoyed the range of ages I got to work with. But I was persuaded by Zwanziger to become the national coach with the defining moment coming when he said, 'We need you and I believe in you'."

That Germany still need her was a point underlined by her star striker, Birgit Prinz, before she received her latest award. Neid said: "Birgit Prinz told me before the ceremony that I still had to earn this trophy. Of course she's right. I know that winning this award will do me no favours when we host the World Cup in Germany later this year. Now we've got to work hard, retain our levels of concentration and look forward to what lies ahead of us."