Tuesday 16 August 2016, 08:13

Behringer: Germany must be much more aggressive

For anyone watching Germany at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament at Rio 2016, Melanie Behringer has been simply impossible to ignore. She is the heartbeat of the team and her thundering 20-yard strike in the quarter-finals against China PR earned her side a place in the last four. So where has this explosion in form come from?

"I feel good and am doing well," said the 30-year-old in an interview with FIFA.com. "Everything stems from my beliefs. I'm deeply religious and read the Bible. I try to implement those things and it's working out pretty well. I view the fact that I'm playing here as a huge blessing. It's a big honour to be here and I'm delighted that I'm performing well out on the pitch. My talent is God-given and that gives me strength. And hopefully it will continue to do so for the next two games."

The midfielder is currently the tournament's top scorer with four goals - more than the strikers on her team. "That's true, I'm ahead of them," Behringer said, laughing. "I've never scored this regularly at a tournament before: a goal a game. It's a nice feeling for me. But ultimately the only thing that counts is that we win as a team. If I can contribute to that, then great. In the end it doesn't matter who scores."

The amicable Lorrach native made her national team debut 11 years ago and is now among the more experienced players in the squad. She was also part of the ensemble that participated at Germany's last Olympic outing, at Beijing 2008. Behringer believes much has changed in women's football since then: "The game was slower, you had more time to think and to play. Everything's got much quicker. I'm under pressure as soon as I have the ball now and I hardly have any time to think where to play it. The game's also become more athletic. The Australians are so strong and athletic, I know that definitely wasn't the case in 2008. Back then Germany were way ahead of the pack but now it's very even at the top."

Behringer views France* *as one of the teams among that elite group: "I think it's astonishing how France have developed in footballing terms. I can't understand how they got knocked out so early because they've got so much class they should be contenders at every tournament. Women's football has progressed and improved tactically too. Smaller teams try to find tactical solutions when they play against us or against USA. They sit back, which makes it difficult for us to get through."

Venue unimportantSitting back is not a strategy Germany's semi-final opponents are likely to employ. Canada have a well-balanced team, boasting strength both in defence and attack. Coach John Herdman's charges booked their place in the last four with a perfect record of four wins from as many games. Behringer and Co already know all about the Canucks' prowess after losing 2-1 to them in their final group fixture. Could that experience prove beneficial for Germany?

"I think it was a good thing we faced Canada in the group stage," said the Bayern Munich midfielder. "We know what to expect. In principle we know how they'll play and how their individual players tick. That can only be a good thing. We'll perhaps have to approach it differently than we did in the group game. We'll have to be much more aggressive, otherwise we won't have a chance. Everyone wants to reach the final and we can hardly wait. I'm confident we can do it."

The fact the match will take place at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, where Germany's men's team recorded a historic triumph in 2014 and their Olympic side were also emphatic victors, is irrelevant for Behringer. "That was their thing; we'll do our thing," she said. "We can't go into the game thinking, 'The boys won here so we're definitely going to win.' Everyone knows how tough it'll be. It's a unique chance for both teams. We've never made it to an Olympic final."

She also has an answer to the question why she thinks Germany will be the ones heading to Rio: "Because we'll have won the match against Canada!"