Losing out on Olympic gold in Athens last month has raised many questions about the German women's national soccer team. However, results and history show its not time to push the panic button just yet.
Germany's loss to the US in Athens may inspire the team to new heights
On Saturday, the German women's national soccer team takes on the Czech Republic in the last game of its European Championship qualification campaign. The game could go a long way in answering some of the questions still hanging over the World Champions after their Olympic dream turned sour last month.
It should be a ludicrous situation to be in for coach Tina-Theune Meyer and her players. Here is a team who so magnificently captured the World Cup in 2003 in the title holders backyard, beating the United States on the way to claiming the crown against Sweden in the final.
The following year, Germany was one result away from either a gold or silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens but, despite losing to the US in the semi-final, still returned with a bronze.
And yet some commentators are wondering whether the German women's team is finished and that a rebuilding operation should begin in the bid for more glory.
Dominant Euro campaign
These claims seem even more ridiculous when the team's European Championship campaign to date is reviewed. Germany are Group 4 leaders with a game to go and assured of a place at the final in England in 2005. They lead the second-placed team, their opponents on Saturday, by eight points after sweeping all before them with seven wins out of seven.
The odds are in favour of a perfect 8. Germany's only match against the Czech Republic came in March 2003 in the first group game in Passau. Germany won 4-0.
More impressive than just the fact that they have won all their qualification matches so far is the fact that they have done so conceding only two goals and scoring 43, notching up 13 against Portugal in the home game in Reutlingen and 11 in the away leg.
Success built on success
The question being asked of the German team should be "what heights will they reach next?" Before they secured their first ever World Cup in 2003, the Germans had been crowned European Champions five times, and are the reigning champions heading into the competition in 2005. Such a process of building success at European level resulted in Germany being crowned the best in the world. Of course, this would have been set off by an Olympic victory but that was not to be.
Germany's current crop of talented ladies are far from a washed-up bunch at the end of their careers and are no more a team of World Champions lacking motivation than they are in need of rebuilding. The oldest member of the current squad is 31, the youngest 18.
Germany's Birgit Prinz.
The majority of the squad are in their early to mid-20's and have yet to reach their peak. Current top scorer Birgit Prinz (photo) is 27 and has already played 123 games for her country and has scored 78 goals. It is hardly a team on the verge of collapse.
US showed mettle after heartbreak
The over-reaction to the Olympic loss may have been a result of overwhelming disappointment considering the talent and potential of the team. But anyone still considering the possibility that missing out on Olympic gold would bring the Germans' reign to a close should look at their closest and fiercest rivals.
The United States were World Champions when Germany beat them on the way to a 2-1 win against Sweden in 2003. The Olympic final was the swan song for many of the players from that US team, as many as five retired after taking gold. The United States overcame massive disappointment after losing out in the last World Cup and with an ageing squad rallied themselves one more time to take a major title.
Germany's Olympic dream ended cruelly with an overtime goal in the semi-final against the US. It would've been a crushing blow. But with a young team yet to reach its full potential, Germany's women have many chances ahead to bounce back in much the same way as the US did in Athens. And with many good years left in the majority of the players, this could well mean bad news for the rest of the world.