One year ago, Germany was flying high. They arrived at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup as the Olympic champions, and one of the favorites to win the upcoming Euro championship. The six-time consecutive champions knew that this title defense would be more difficult than some in the past, but they certainly wouldn’t have anticipated being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Denmark. Then, their humiliation was compounded by a loss to Iceland in October, breaking a 26-match unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying.
These tough results notwithstanding, Germany remain one of the world’s best teams—as made clear in their final match of 2017, a 4-0 thumping of France. The question is: which version will turn up at SheBelieves? Will we get a return of the smooth-passing team that looked so dominant for much of 2015 and 2016, or the more hesitant group that struggled their way through matches last year?
This tournament will be an important bellwether for several of the competitors—with England looking to assess the results of their new manager and France looking to rekindle the optimism that led them to victory here last year—but maybe none more so than Germany. Coach Steffi Jones had her contract renewed after the failure in last year’s Euros and remains on track to manage all the way through the 2019 World Cup. But another bad result here might be enough to force a change.
After all, on sheer talent, this is a squad that has every reason to be planning to win the World Cup next summer. They’re young (the average age is 25, with only two players over 30), but experienced beyond their years. Now is the time for Jones to show that she can get them working together to produce the results they expect.
Das ist unser Kader für den SheBelieves Cup 2018 in den USA (2. bis 7. März)! Gespielt wird gegen die Gastgeberinnen 🇺🇸, England 🏴 und Frankreich 🇫🇷 Alle Infos ➡ https://t.co/bzigJ9Z2J1 #USAGER #GERENG #FRAGER pic.twitter.com/xtdpjQpXQD
— DFB-Frauenfußball (@DFB_Frauen) February 12, 2018
A lot of that will depend on their talismanic #10, Dzsenifer Marozsán. She has been the heart of the German team since the retirement of Célia Šašić in 2015, with her field vision and mobility giving her the ability to affect every aspect of the game. While her primary duty is to serve as the playmaking fulcrum around which everyone else moves, she also has a wicked shot from distance, and is more than capable of crashing into the box to follow up on the attack.
Led by Marozsán, the midfield is probably Germany’s strongest line, with important additional support from Sara Däbritz. She’s been a mainstay in the squad for years—and is one of the main reasons Germany took home the gold in Rio in 2016—but at just 23 is still primed for a serious breakout. Where Marozsán is the mercurial genius, Däbritz is a highly technical player, with a refined game based on control and execution.
The midfield is rounded out with an excellent backing cast, including young talents like Linda Dallmann and Lina Magull, versatile players who can help keep the midfield engine running. Dallmann, in particular, has looked excellent over the past year, and promises to be a mainstay in the German team. Another interesting name is Tabea Kemme, who has previously played as a defender, but whose recent switch into the attack for Turbine Potsdam has produced excellent results. She should bring a lot of attacking verve on the wing. They’ll also be glad to see the return of veteran Lena Goeßling, who has come back to the squad after some conflicts with the coach pushed her off the team last year.
Unlike some of the other teams at the tournament, Germany does not rely on a single dominant striker, instead utilizing a range of solid players with different skills. First among those equals, though, is Alexandra Popp, who has averaged a goal every two games for her country. They’ll also feature Svenja Huth, who has been in great form with Turbine Potsdam and brings some creativity to the front line, as well as Mandy Islacker—a late arrival to the German team (not earning her first cap until she was 27) who is making up for lost time.
— DFB-Frauenfußball (@DFB_Frauen) February 15, 2018
The biggest questions for Germany come from the backline. There should be two certainties: Leonie Maier at right back and Babett Peter in the central defense. But apart from those two, the next-most-capped players are Verena Faißt and Anna Blässe (with just 34 and 24 appearances respectively)—both useful support players but neither a likely starter at the next big tournament. Many of the big questions for them this tournament, therefore, revolve around the defense. In particular: what are the long-term plans at center back? And who can step up at left back (assuming that Kemme sticks in the midfield)?
Germany finished second at this tournament last year, despite not playing especially well in any of their games. That proved a harbinger of the struggles that followed over the rest of the year. Will there be more of the same malaise this time around? Or will Jones finally put her own stamp on the team, and bring them through this transitional period?
March 1: vs. USA, 7 pm ET/4 pm PT (ESPN2)
March 4: vs. England, 3 pm ET/12 pm PT (ESPN3)
March 7: vs. France, 4 pm ET/1 pm PT (ESPN3)