Olympic champion, double world champion, eight-time European champion… If the prize list of the German women’s national team is enough to make many nations pale, the trophy cabinet of the German Football Federation (or DFB, for Deutscher Fussball Bundin German) has not filled in since 2016, and the Olympic gold medal in Rio de la Frauen-Nationalmannschaft. At the Euro, in England, the German players will try to conquer a ninth continental title, but face increased competition, with a shock against Spain, on July 12, from the group stage.
Six years without a title, German women’s football had never known such a shortage. While they won most of the tournaments in which they participated, with in particular eight Euros conquered between 1989 and 2013, the domination of German players has withered in recent years. Since their Olympic coronation in Rio, they have been eliminated in the quarter-finals of Euro 2017, at the same stage of the competition at the World Cup in 2019, and they were not qualified to compete in the Tokyo Olympics last summer. .
Quadruple European champion with the Nationalmannshaft and now a member of the federation, Doris Fitschen explains this scarcity by a new competition: “The other nations are investing more and more in women’s football and making progress. So there are no longer just one or two teams that can win these competitions. »
Would the Germans have lost the lead they had taken in the development of women’s football? According to DFB statistics, the number of licensed players is stagnating around 820,000 players, and the number of women’s teams listed has decreased over the past ten years, from 5,742 in 2012 to 5,385 ten years later.
The 2027 World Cup in sight
If these figures remain much higher than those of the French Football Federation, which had 138,000 licensees in 2021, German women’s football does not seem to be enjoying the same growth as in other European nations. Even hosting the World Cup in 2011 did not have the desired effect: “The expectations around this tournament were very high, but Germany were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Japan. Some were hoping for a big leap forward and for talented young players to get into football, but it didn’t happen.”relates journalist Christina Graf, who will comment on Euro 2022 for the German public channel ARD.
To reverse this dynamic, the DFB launched its “Strategy 2027” in December 2021. A year that was not chosen at random, since Germany applied to co-organize the 2027 World Cup with the Netherlands and Belgium. This plan aims to “to bring German women’s football back to the top of the world and establish it there permanently”as the federation writes on its official website.
The message is clear and, to achieve it, this strategy covers different areas: “There is a sporting part, with the objective of our national team and our clubs winning international titlesexplains Doris Fitschen, in charge of this strategy. Then we want to bring more young girls into football, but also more women as coaches and referees. Another part of this plan also aims to have 30% of women in the bodies, and to improve the media coverage of women’s football. »
Beyond the national selection, Doris Fitschen hopes to see a German club win the Women’s Champions League again quickly. Since 2016, only two teams in the women’s Bundesliga have managed to reach the final of the competition without winning, while in the first fifteen editions of the tournament, from 2002 to 2016, Germany had been represented in the final thirteen times. .
A bright future promised by young golden generations?
In order not to lose any more ground, the former international wants the championship to be as competitive as possible, to create emulation: “Professionalization is the key, so that the teams are more structured. For now, Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt or VfL Wolfsburg are doing a very good job, but it would be nice if more big clubs followed their example, like Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig. »
In England for the Euro, the Germans will not arrive in a position of ultrafavorites as was the case a few years ago. “According to the coach, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, seven or eight teams can win”, assures Doris Fitschen. And in the absence of certain executives – including Lyonnaise Dzsenifer Marozsan, injured – the Frauen-Nationalmannschaft will still be able to count on young talents, such as Lena Oberdorf, who, at the age of 21, already has national team experience, having played in the 2019 World Cup in France.
The VfL Wolfsburg midfielder is one of the young golden generations that helped Germany win the Under-17 Euros in 2017, 2019 and 2022. “These young players are already playing in the first division and benefit from the investments and infrastructure of big clubs. They reach the top level very quickly and gain international experience.”, notes Christina Graf. And if some of these young players are already knocking on the door of the national team, they will in future constitute the bulk of the Frauen-Nationalmannschaft, which will try to dust off the trophy cabinet of the federation.