Germany's Turid Knaak is preparing to play in her first World Cup at the age of 28. In an exclusive interview with DW, Knaak talks about the team's new coach and the challenge of balancing football with life.
DW: Ms. Knaak, the recent commercial by the national team sponsor has caused a stir. The players of the Germany XI deliver a tongue-in-cheek message about the perception of the women's team in Germany and beyond. That message is at odds with the conservative image of the DFB. How do you consider the advert and its implications?
Turid Knaak: I think you can see from the reaction that it was time to do that. Sometimes it's best to be proactive and I think that it is more good than bad. It was done In the right way.
The players are cheeky and open in the advert. Is this how the team will perform at the World Cup?
I think that's a characteristic of our team. We have a good mix. There are also some young, wild players.
Is the team different to the old days?
I can not judge that because it will be my first World Cup. But I think that there are many strong characters in women's football. And that's great, especially for the public.
You mentioned your first World Cup. You are 28 years old. Why has it not happened earlier for you?
I was invited to the senior national team at the age of 24, but suffered serious injury that kept me out. After I broke my tibia and fibula I had to fight back for two years. Now I've finally got the chance. I'm so pleased to be able to take this step so late in my career.
Did you expect that?
Of course I was hoping for that. I was already under consideration for the team before the injury. And now it worked.
For your club, the SGS Essen, you are a leader. In the national team with seven appearances to your name, others are more likely to start. How do you forsee your role in France?
Of course, I'm one of the most inexperienced players in terms of the DFB. But because of my many Bundesliga games and also some titles that I have won over the years, I also bring a certain amount of experience. I want to do my part.
How realistic is it that you are in the first eleven?
The first eleven will emerge only in the next few weeks. I will give everything to get as much playing time as possible. That's all I can do.
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is the a new coach. Where has the work of the team been focused?
You can tell that she wants to help us individually. We did a lot of one-on-one training, and we also worked on the technique. But she also worked on the tactics of the team: how do we want to work off the ball, how do we want to attack, how compact are we as a team? She has a precise plan, and we've done it pretty well lately.
Does the team rely more on possession or more on counterattack?
I think we have the confidence to be a team that determines the game. We are not a team that withdraws and lurks ready to pounce on the counterattack. So it will be our goal that we are the dominant team in every game.
How does the national coach act: strict or friendly?
We laugh a lot with her. She is always up for a good laugh. And she can also laugh about the jokes of the team. But she and us can flip the switch at the right moment. She also has a certain rigor and authority that a trainer needs.
Knaak says there are similarities in the coaching styles of new Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and her predecessor Horst Hrubesch, pictured here with Knaak.
What distinguishes Voss-Tecklenburg from Horst Hrubesch, who previously coached the team?
Horst Hrubesch is the fatherly type, but also could be strict. Ultimately, both have a very good mix of closeness to the team, but also rigor and distance. Martina also takes players to the side for a one-on-one interview. So they do not differ so much.
You are working on your doctoral thesis on the subject of spelling aid - in addition to the preparation for the World Cup. Many players in the World Cup squad do not do that. Why did you opt for that?
In the national team, of course, I'm more of an exception with my work, along with one or two others. But in the Bundesliga some players are working and studying side by side. It works just fine for me and my boss supports me. The thesis has to rest for a few weeks now though.
Is it possible to combine sport and work in women's football?
I think the teams that play in the Champions League, like VfL Wolfsburg and FC Bayern, find that difficult. In Essen, it is a bit more familiar. We train in the afternoon and I go to work at the University of Cologne during the day, and that works well for me. As a women's footballer, you also have to make sure you build a second career. I think you can count the number of players who earn enough to enjoy a full-time career on two hands. These are the absolute top players, in the USA for example. But in Germany very few women can live off football alone. But I also like being cognitively challenged off the field, so it's a good balance too.
What is your personal wish for this tournament?
On the one hand, of course, I would like to enjoy every second of the game because, of course, at the age of 28, I realize that I do not have that many opportunities anymore. I want as much playing time as possible and for us to go very far in the tournament. If these things happen, then I will be very happy.
How important is it to win the title?
The experience is one thing, but you never participate in a tournament without trying to win it. Of course, the competition is big but Germany is a nation that always has the chance to win a World Cup.