The consensus is that the Women's World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday, is Germany's to lose, writes Matthew Futterman. The Germans are the class of the sport, thanks to the world's most sophisticated development program -- and they might be unbeatable on their home turf.
The Germans are the class of the sport, thanks to the world's most sophisticated development program -- and they might be unbeatable on their home turf. They won the last two Women's World Cups, in the USA in 2003 and in China in 2007.
Niels Barnhofer, a spokesman for the German soccer federation, declined to say how much the federation spends each year on women's soccer, but there are nearly 20 full-time employees dedicated to the task. As part of its Talentfoerderprogramm system, elite girls are identified at young ages and train regularly with the top boys. The country has more than 300 regional training sites where the best players perfect their skills and learn the importance of mobility and movement rather than sticking to a single position. The system has produced a collection of stars including Kim Kulig, Inka Grings and Birgit Prinz.
The nation with the most "natural talent" is Brazil, whose team includes Marta, the five-time women's Player of the Year, and her sidekick Cristiane. Together they form the tournament's most feared attack.