A closer look at the 24 teams competing at the Olympics
In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. Between now and the Olympic opening ceremony a new team will be featured every 2-3 days. Today we take a closer look at the German women's national team.
Germany are currently ranked third in the world, despite the fact that they have been struggling to finish in the top three in the last few years, finishing fourth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the 2010 FIH World Cup in Rosario as well as the FIH Champions Trophy tournaments in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Their last title came in 2007 when they won the European Championship in Manchester. Their biggest success is the Olympic gold medal they won in Athens 2004.
The Road to London:
Germany qualified for the Olympics as runners-up of the 2011 European Championship held in Mönchengladbach. They defeated Spain 2-1 in the Semifinal to celebrate their London ticket in front of a home crowd at the HockeyPark. Germany lost the Final 0-3 to the Olympic Champions from the Netherlands.
Players to Watch:
Even though she is the oldest player in the squad, 34-year-old Natascha Keller is still the key player in the German team. Keller has played more than 400 (indoor and outdoor) matches for Germany to become the first ever woman to achieve such a feat. The striker from Berlin has scored 203 goals so far. “Taschi” became the fourth member of the Keller dynasty to win a hockey medal in Olympic competition when Germany took the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Keller’s grandfather Erwin won silver in 1936 in Berlin, her father Carsten won gold at Munich in 1972, her older brother Andreas claimed silver in both Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 before winning gold in Barcelona in 1992. Keller’s younger brother Florian won gold in Beijing in 2008. 32-year-old Fanny Rinne is another key player worth watching. Keller and Rinne have announced their retirement after the London Games which will be Keller’s fifth and Rinne’s fourth Olympic appearance.
45-year-old Michael Behrmann has been the head coach of the German women since 2006 when Markus Weise moved over to the men’s program. Before Behrmann was in charge of the U21 women's team. Behrmann was born in Hamburg but his family soon moved to Munich where he started playing hockey, and finished his diploma in Physical Education at TU Munich. In 2000 he moved back to Hamburg. His only title came in 2007 when he won the European Championship in Manchester, his debut year as the senior women’s head coach.
The strength of the German team is that they stick together as a team. Their team is a mixture out of the three remaining 2004 Gold Medallists Natascha Keller, Fanny Rinne, and Mandy Haase, experienced international players such as Christina Schütze, Janne Müller-Wieland, Maike Stöckel, Julia Müller and Nina Hasselmann as well as young talented players like Anke Brockmann, Celine Wilde, Lisa Hahn, Marie Mävers or Kristina Hillmann. Yvonne Frank is an established goalkeeper. The two forwards Eileen Hoffmann and Janine Beermann as well as defender Julia Karwatzky surprisingly didn't make the final cut.
Germany miss a world-class flicker at penalty corners. They generally play a number of variations because the first shot on goal is not their strongest weapon. However, coach Behrmann thinks that Germany are able to surprise with their diversity: “Keller, Rinne or Müller can take the corner. We have also practised many different variations which makes it difficult for opponents to anticipate what we do.” When playing the top teams, Germany often have a slow start, conceding early goals which makes the match an uphill battle.
Germany have been working hard to perform well at the London Olympics, and are on a fitness level they have never reached before. The team's first goal clearly is to reach the Semifinals, and once there, the German ladies will give everything not to finish fourth again. “We know that we attack from an underdog position”, coach Behrmann says.