1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

How good is German rising star Lena Oberdorf?

Alima Hotakie London
July 29, 2022

She may not get the same attention as Germany's goalscorers, but defensive midfielder Lena Oberdorf is doing all the dirty work at Euro 2022. She's at the top of the booking statistics — and at the top of her game.

Euro 2022 Lena Oberdorf
Image: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/empics/picture alliance

If there's one thing that Germany midfielder Lena Oberdorf has learned about herself at Euro 2022, it's how she reaches top gear.

"I need three or four good tackles in order to get into a match," she told DW.

Tackling has always been a key element of the 20-year-old's game, from watching videos of Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos on YouTube as a child, to winning 79% of her direct duels against Austria in the Euro 2022 quarterfinal.

"I'm learning to trust my own strengths even more," she said, "and just throw everything in."

Oberdorf's dirty work, breaking up attacks and stabilizing the midfield, is one of the reasons Germany have only conceded one goal en route to the final — and even that was something of a freak incident.

On the single occasion that Oberdorf arrived on the scene too late, Kadidiatou Diani's drive ricocheted off Merle Frohm's back and into the net for France's equalizer in the semifinal.

'Maturity and intensity and a desire to win balls'

Not that it's damaged Oberdorf's reputation. The Wolfsburg midfielder was already playing for Germany's under-15s at the age of 12, before displacing the legendary Birgit Prinz as Germany's youngest ever play at a major tournament when she was called up for the 2019 World Cup, aged just 17.

Now, with 31 international appearances under her belt, she's firmly established at the heart of this Germany team.

"I think everyone saw how Lena played today at such a young age," head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said after the win over Austria, "with a maturity and intensity and a desire to win balls."

And it's not just the coach who has noticed: Oberdorf's performances have brought her to the German public's attention, too.

"Lena Oberdorf shows what world class means," the broadcaster  wrote after the semifinal, while the Westdeutsche Zeitung, proud of one their own from the western German town of Gevelsberg, just south of Dortmund, called Oberdorf "the powerful linchpin" of this Germany team.

Euro 2022 Lena Oberdorf touches her shoulder
Oberdorf has many fansImage: Melanie Laurent/DPPI Media/picture alliance


As her three international goals testify, Oberdorf is more than simply a midfield destroyer.

She occupies a more advanced role for Wolfsburg in the domestic Frauen-Bundesliga and is still encouraged to express her attacking instincts with the national team, too.

"I think it's important nowadays to be a defensive player who is also capable of scoring goals," she told DW last year. "Martina is always calling for us defensive players to get involved up front, and I'm still allowed to go forward for corners and free kicks."

Mixing it with the boys

Oberdorf credits parts of her game to playing with boys in her youth, saying it made her tougher. Her older brother Tim is also a professional footballer with German Bundesliga 2 side Fortuna Düsseldorf, and convinced her at a young age to give football a chance.

In addition to Ramos, she also looks up to Joshua Kimmich, and told Süddeutsche Zeitung recently that she'd like to have a chat with the Bayern Munich midfielder about their similar roles.

"He embodies many of the same traits: these emotions in the game, never giving up, always going into that extra tackle, making that extra run," she said. "I think our styles complement each other well."

Despite her best efforts, she also shares Kimmich's and Ramos' propensity for picking up yellow cards. She almost made it through the semifinal without a booking but, after a late challenge on the dangerous Diani in injury, picked up her third caution of the tournament, putting her top — or bottom, depending on how you look at it — of that particular list.

"I thought I'd learned how to get through a game without a yellow card," she told DW, laughing. "That didn't really go as planned in the first two games, either. But I'll keep at it."

Given Oberdorf's physical style of play, one suspects there will be more to come. But, if it helps keep England at bay on Sunday, it will have been worth it.

Edited by: Matt Ford.

Hotakie Alima Kommentarbild App
Alima Hotakie DW's Alima Hotakie