I am a bit late to this news, blame it on moving/ working/ traveling schedules. This past May Kerstin Garefrekes retired from soccer. But even before that, after the 2011 world cup, she retired from the German national team and thus I have also been trailing off following the team closely. There are a few particular players I really enjoy watching, one is Kerstin Garefrekes, and the others are Homare Sawa, Aya Miyama, and Shinobu Ohno. The last three are midfielders of the Japanese team during the 2011 world cup. They are admired greatly (by me) for their field visions and skilled passing. I once compiled a video of all their incredible “drop” passes but decided not to upload for fear of copyright issues.
“the” goal. USA versus Germany, women world cup 2003. © AP / Rick Bowmer
With Garefrekes, I have always loved watching her “runs” and passing from the wings. Ok, I don’t know the game very well in term of actual playing (hey, it could have been different if I got some training when little🙂 ), but one of the key things is knowing “where” and “when” to run / make cuts to be open and seeing ahead of time where you can pass / cut the angles to get the ball behind the defenders. And i always love players running down the side and managing curls into the penalty area (that’s how England scored two goals in the 1996 world cup semifinal! pass it out to the wing, run in, pass in, headers, GOAAAL!!) . In any case, for those who did not follow, Kerstin Garefrekes was also involved in THE game that got me completely addicted to women soccer: the 2003 World Cup semifinal between Germany and USA. And, as a reward of being patiently waiting, here it is in full, vintage Garefrekes in one of _the_ best games in women soccer! Intense action starting at 14m30s , when, guess who, scored for Germany. This is also a game of SPECTACULAR goal protection from the German keeper Silk Rottenberg (and a young Nadine Angerer cheering on the side). INCREDIBLE saves after saves. The entire match after minute 14m30s was played in the German half! And she single-handedly preserved the score for Germany until minute 91…
Yes, that evening i switched on, at the time, a 13-in TV someone gave, and remained glued to the screen biting nails (i was cheering for Germany, long story, but have always been) until the last minute. The skill level was really amazing to watch.. Back then, Garefrekes, at some very tender young age, was on the bench in the opening rounds but by the most important semifinal match she was already in the starting line-up. In addition to her opening goal, if continue to follow the match, you will see how she kept running up the wings, crossing into the center, and making really good passes that caused all kinds of troubles for the Americans. I’m assuming not too many of those announcers knew who she was and only starting recognizing her influence as the match unfolded. Also seen are Abby Wambach and
Birgit Prinz (scratch that, i just saw Prinz playing in the 1995 game! how old is she?!) at tender young age, as well as the earlier very skillful generation of German and American players.
Silke Rottenberg making a save, USA vs Germany, semifinal women world cup 2003. © Donald Miralle
Two years ago, before retiring, she also took a 3 months “break” to play in the US!! There is an interview from Deutschland to Germantown, a perfect timing for Kerstin Garefrekes where she explained the main difference between how the game is played here in the US versus in Germany. I would say it is also a primary reason I don’t really watch the USA team (and the same reason you heard a certain goalie calling other team “a bunch of cowards” for having strategies): that they rely a lot on brute force rather than on technical skills. That is the filtering system aims to reward the “fastest” and “tallest”, in such a way that the idea is primarily to “launch” the ball up as far as possible and relying on your athletic players to outrun/outmuscle the other team’s players for the ball. Of course, it’s a good strategy if you play a smaller/slower team (an asian team! hey, we’re pretty smaller statistically! i think! there’s a quote somewhere i read the average female Vietnamese height and weight is 1,55m and 43kg!) . Thus in this brute-force way there is less chances for smaller / less fast players.
Ariane Hingst as the last line of defense, USA vs Germany, semifinal WWC 2003. © unknown
That is fine, i guess. However, if your opponents are also as fast and as tall as you are, e.g., the Swedish team, then this out-running out-muscling tactic can only go so far. And at this point skillful passing would be required to maintain possession and organize some sort of attacks. And I guess after seeing Japan in 2011, I have been slacking off because their style of play is not being rewarded as much and I got tired of seeing balls hurling up and down with sprinting/wrestling in unorganized fashions (this is also true for the current German team, or Swedish). But yes, before all of that, there was this one game that started it all. Note the “strategy” Germany adopted back in 2003 to face a VERY skillful USA team is quite similar to the tactic Sweden took this past Olympics or in the world cup 2011.