German international footballer Alexandra Popp is a pivotal figure for both club and country. The 27-year-old spoke to DW about bogey team Lyon, the World Cup in 2019 and women's football in general.
DW: Ms. Popp, you were recently voted as one of the top 20 female footballers in the world. How would you describe yourself?
Alexandra Popp: At the moment, my game is very flexible, including in a positional sense. Sometimes I play holding midfield, sometimes I play left wing. In the last few months for Germany I've played in attack. My strength is the physicality of my game.
And scoring goals is what you strive for?
It once was, yes. I can be dangerous in attack. For my liking I'm not dangerous enough yet. Sadly, in the last few years, my name hasn't been the easiest to find in the scoring charts. I reckon I've unlearnt it a bit because I've played in so many different positions. When I occasionally get in on goal, I overthink it and that's no good.
Looking back at 2018, does the red card in extra time of the Champions League final against Olympique Lyon still sting?
I've overcome the pain. It's important for us, so long as we still can, to be on a level playing field. If we had kept playing like we had done during the 90 minutes, I bet we would have won the game.
Despite losing in the final, are you happy with the year at Wolfsburg?
I think we can be 100 percent happy with last season. In the second half of the season we didn't lose a single game. And if you look at how we've started the first half of this season, I have to say we've never played like this. And that leaves everyone in the team hungry for more.
Wolfsburg have been up against Lyon several times recently. In March, you face the French side again in the Champions League quarterfinals. Will this one end in disappointment as well?
We have a score to settle with Lyon. We want to beat them next time we play them. That's pretty much our number one goal at the moment. A few years ago, it used to be that first came the league title, then the Champions League and then the cup. Now though, the Champions League is on the same level as the German championship, if not a little bit higher up because we really want to win this title again. And I think it's our turn again, finally.
When you're so dominant domestically, does it ever get boring for the players?
The funny thing is we don't even have to motivate ourselves. Every single player here, thank goodness, has a huge drive for more. You can see that in our results. If we're 3-0 up, you could stop playing but we don't stop. We want to get the best out of it, especially in those close games.
You're an institution in the Germany team. You haven't won the World Cup yet though. What would you give to win that title in France?
I have to stay fit, then I can deliver top performances. I'm working towards it, that's my goal. I want to keep leading the team and continue to develop the team with new head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, so as to be at the top level for the World Cup.
Would a World Cup title be the crowning achievement of your career?
Yes, I think so. I haven't won the European Championships — I twice missed out due to injury. And whether or not I'll be playing by the time of the next Euros, I can't yet say. If I win the World Cup, it would be the jewel in the crown.
Do you think public perception of women's football has improved in the last decade?
After the World Cup in 2011 in Germany, there was, even though we weren't that successful, a mini boom. In the last few years, that has dropped. In Wolfsburg though, we're recognized in the city. That is a great compliment, every single time.
And in the Germany team?
The attendance numbers have risen in Wolfsburg, but that's not the case in the national team. We were Olympic winners in 2016, but it feels like that wasn't really taken notice of. It is difficult to market us. All of us together, and particularly those on the pitch, have to get to the point where women's football gets more attention.
There are hardly any women at Bundesliga clubs in managerial positions. Is professional football not quite there yet? Is that something you'd be interested in doing after your playing career?
We have enough former players who have continued to work in football. But you also need experience to do the job. It would certainly be an interesting step if more women worked in these capacities. For me, I think a coaching job would be more interesting but I haven't really thought about it too much.
Can you understand the uproar around Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg being asked to twerk upon receiving her award?
It's a shame and annoying, mostly for Ada, that her sporting performance was left in the background somewhat, especially as this was the first ever Ballon d'Or for a woman. She reacted coolly. One can only hope that it will be different next year.
Do you think the prejudices against women's football will end one day?
I don't think there are any fewer. To really like women's football, you should go to a stadium and catch a live game, don't watch one on TV. Only then can more people get excited about women's football.
With 93 caps, Alexandra Popp is one of the most experienced members of the Germany national team. The 27-year-old has scored 44 goals for her country. Her greatest success to date was the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Since 2012, the attacker has been under contract at Wolfsburg where she has won two Champions Leagues, four Bundesliga titles and five German Cups.