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Women's soccer fever hits Germany
by Paul Kennedy, June 25th, 2011 4:01PM



[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT] Like the 1999 Women's World Cup in the USA, this is the moment for women's soccer in Germany. The 2011 Women's World Cup kicks off Sunday amid unprecedented interest in women's soccer.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter calls Germany '11 a "milestone" for women's soccer, which fans have only begun to grudgingly accept in Europe.

A sellout crowd is expected Sunday at Berlin's 75,000-seat Olympic Stadium, site of the 2006 World Cup final, when Germany hosts Canada.

Two burning questions all week have been whether German fans will whistle the embattled Blatter -- German organizing chief Steffi Jones asked her countrymen to be "good hosts" -- and whether star Birgit Prinz will play.

Prinz, who will be playing in her fifth Women's World Cup and holds the tournament scoring record with 14 goals, injured her right ankle in practice two weeks ago, and she has been the subject of intense media coverage.

Even if Prinz is not 100 percent, Germany will be favored against Canada, which has its strongest team ever. It is loaded with a host of young stars, including media darling Lira Bajramaj, Alexandra Popp and Kim Kulig.

Everyone is counting on Coach Silvia Neid's women to accomplish what Juergen Klinsmann's men couldn't five years ago as hosts of the World Cup when they had to settle for third place.

"Boys, we'll avenge you!" one poster seen in Berlin promised.

"We at least want to make it to the semifinal, that would be great," said Neid. "But our big dream is to become world champions for a third time in a row."

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