Germany striker Svenja Huth to emulate idol Prinz at World Cup

When Germany forward Svenja Huth was growing up, she didn't idolise Raul, Ronaldo or Miroslav Klose. Her hero was Birgit Prinz, the legendary striker captain who led Germany to Women's World Cup titles in 2003 and 2007.

Now 28 and herself one of the undisputed stars of the national team, Huth hopes to walk in Prinz's footsteps when she makes a belated World Cup debut in France this month.

"Back then, a lot of people had idols from the men's game, but for me, people like Birgit were always more tangible role models," Huth told AFP a few weeks before travelling to Rennes for Germany's opening game against China on June 8.

In France, she will be able to seek out direct advice from Prinz, who was appointed Germany's team psychologist earlier this year.

"Birgit made her international debut and won titles at a young age and that's also what you want to do as a young player," said Huth.

Huth did just that, emerging through the ranks just in time to play alongside Prinz as FFC Frankfurt won the UEFA Women's Cup in 2008. In 2015, she won the competition again just weeks before a move to current club Turbine Potsdam.

Crowned Germany's player of the year in 2018, the hard-working forward has quietly made herself invaluable for her country, with broadcaster ZDF recently describing her as Germany's "underestimated leader".

She was 12 when Prinz led Germany to their first World Cup title in 2003, and though her memories of the tournament are hazy, she says that the success of that generation still lingers over the current crop.

"It is always in the back of your mind that, alongside the USA, Germany used to be the leading country in women's football," she said.

"Nowadays, there are eight or nine teams who can be world champions. England, Holland and France have developed amazingly in recent years. It is going to be tough, but we can win it."

- First World Cup -

The upcoming tournament in France will be particularly special for Huth, who despite her 43 caps has never played at a World Cup.

Too young to play when Germany hosted the World Cup in 2011, she was then left out of the squad in 2015.

"World Cups are always special, but there is an extra appeal for me this time," she told AFP.

After a turbulent few years with four coaches in three years since winning Olympic gold in 2016, Huth said Germany are back on course to challenge for the trophy in France under new boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.

"The atmosphere in the team is really good, we have got our confidence back in recent months."

Huth assumed the vice-captaincy role under Voss-Tecklenburg, after her good friend and room-mate Dzsenifer Maroszan gave up the captain's armband earlier this year.

Now second-in-command under new captain Alexandra Popp, she says she is not nervous about her new role."

"I always try to lead by example on the pitch anyway, and I have been captain at Turbine Potsdam this year," she says.

As she prepares to move to reigning Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg next season, Huth admits that it was a difficult decision to leave iconic Turbine, where she had become a fan favourite in front of 1500-strong crowds.

Yet Huth is hungry for titles, and she hopes to pick up more silverware in Wolfsburg.

"Wolfsburg are one of the best clubs in Europe, and I know from my time at Frankfurt how good it is to win titles," she says.

At the World Cup, she could yet pick up the biggest title of all -- a trophy which Germany have not lifted since the days of Birgit Prinz.

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