DFB team at the Olympics: German footballers at the Olympics: Only the summer is saved

Lea Schüller (above) headed the decisive 2-0 win against the Dutch.

Foto: imago/Beautiful Sports

Klara Bühl enjoys great popularity among German footballers and their fans. Her tireless drive to score, her direct words, her down-to-earth nature and even her lovingly crocheted mascot at the World Cup last summer earned the FC Bayern Munich attacker high approval ratings. As if to confirm this, Germany’s chosen national player of the year for 2023 should now also be the one who opened the door to the Olympic Games (July 26 to August 11) with a goal and an assist in the 2-0 win against the Netherlands. “Summer is saved,” said the 23-year-old jubilantly.

What was very much to the credit of their team this time: The women of the German Football Association (DFB) didn’t allow themselves to be taken out of their hands, especially in the second half of the game in Heerenveen. The second match point was converted with surprising confidence.

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In order to really experience the flair of the rings and, above all, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village, captain Alexandra Popp, Bühl and Co. may even have to reach the final of the twelve-player tournament in the summer, depending on the group draw. Finally, the preliminary round will be held primarily in Nantes, Nice, St. Etienne, Marseille and Bordeaux, spread across France.

Interim coach Horst Hrubesch, who after 2016 with the men can now also experience such a tournament with the women, has therefore named the final as a target; knowing full well how difficult this will be given the still existing deficiencies in game structure and combination play. This was confirmed not only by the semi-final defeat against France, but also by their hopeless 0-2 defeat in the Nations League final against the currently overpowering world champions from Spain.

The fact that Hrubesch, now almost 73 years old, has such great enthusiasm for the Olympics is something he was actually able to transfer to his team. The still new DFB sports director Nia Künzer seemed infinitely relieved, because the 2003 world champion has now been given enough time until the summer until the successor to the popular emergency helper has to be clarified.

While Künzer celebrated with the players in a large circle on the Heerenveen lawn, DFB managing director Andreas Rettig and his president Bernd Neuendorf preferred to smile on the sidelines. After the disastrous appearance at the 2023 World Cup in Australia, the association has averted another setback for its flagship women’s team. However, there is no reason to be overjoyed; there is simply too much work waiting for the association.

This starts with the sometimes patchy offerings at the grassroots level for girls, continues through the threatened competitiveness of the Bundesliga and leads to a national team that has to complete a program that is far too narrow in the next few weeks and months: the former world footballer Nadine Keßler as Those responsible for female footballers in the European umbrella organization Uefa have cast the European Championship qualification into a new format with questionable time windows. The groups will be drawn on March 5th, Germany plays in the A category and must at least finish second in the group in order to safely take part in the 2025 European Championship in Switzerland and not risk the detour via the playoffs. So far so good.

But the scheduling of the qualifying games (April 3rd-9th, May 29th to June 4th and July 10th-16th) causes people to shake their heads. Why are the double match days rushed through in such short succession, meaning that the national players are hardly given a reasonable summer break? Shortly afterwards, preparations begin for the Olympic football tournament, for which only 18 players are allowed to be nominated. The fact that the DFB, together with some European nations, is now asking the International Olympic Committee to expand the squad comes very late and has little chance of success.

Künzer will now have to discuss the difficult questions surrounding the release of players, which will often arise in the coming months, as well as healthy load management with the club representatives when she visits the Bundesliga clubs soon. There is some need to talk. The summer may be saved, but the fate of the German footballers is certainly not.

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