Germany went into Euro 2022 with tempered expectations after a rough year results-wise. It wasn't until their final pre-tournament friendly - a seismic 7-0 win over Switzerland - that they were really hauled back into the discussion for potential winners.
"We didn't really feel the pressure from the external factors," star midfielder Lena Oberdorf said after their opening win of the Euros.
"It was more that we put ourselves under pressure because we know what kind of quality we have and we know what kind of players we have. Then it’s just showing us and in the past we had those games where we didn’t have it on the pitch and everybody was like ‘ah, Germany are not going to do anything this tournament’. Then we won 7-0 against Switzerland, everybody was like ‘they’re gonna win’! So now it’s just going from game to game and we’ll see how we’re going to improve from game to game."
Die Nationalelf have won all four of their games so far this tournament, scoring 11 and conceding zero. Their most recent triumph came against neighbouring Austria in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Oberdorf, named by 90min's Ali Rampling as Germany's player to watch this tournament, was imperious in their opening wins against Denmark and Spain, but almost willingly earned an accumulation of yellow cards to force herself into suspension for their dead rubber match with Finland (she joked that Thursday's success was 'even better' because she stayed out of the referee's notebook).
Her return vs Austria started rather sloppily, with opposite number Sarah Puntigam racing past her and so nearly teeing up an opening goal. Germany were suddenly in danger of falling behind for the first time this summer.
But after around 10 minutes, Oberdorf almost singlehandedly turned the tie in her country's favour with her impressive discipline, maturity and composure.
"There was a lot of duels, and I think we started to win more and more duels to get in the game and in the end we won the game 2-0. I think the second goal was [created by] a lot of effort from Poppy [Alexandra Popp], we said before we wanted to press like that. For it to [lead to] a goal is even better," Oberdorf told 90min.
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Oberdorf continually deflected individual praise back to the efforts of the whole team, reiterating that Germany's coordination and pressing was the key.
"We put the intensity very high - again - and that’s why I’m so amazed and proud of the team. It’s just an amazing feeling. All of us are 100% in the game, everybody runs for each other, I think this is what makes us strong," she added.
But despite her exemplary performances, her humble-but-confident attitude and almost point-blank refusal to be overawed, Oberdorf is still only 20. She already has 29 caps for her country, featured at two international tournaments and even played in a Champions League final, yet she wouldn't be able to buy an alcoholic drink in the US until December.
"I’m learning. I just want to keep learning in every game right now because these are amazing games and a good level as well, so these are the games that really make you better as a player," Oberdorf admitted.
Germany's quest to reconquer Europe will continue on July 27 against either France or the Netherlands. You'd have to be brave or foolish to bet against a side featuring a player as formidable as Oberdorf right now.