Germany is set to play England in the Women’s Euro 2022 final on Sunday; they held on towards the end in their semifinal against France after a narrow lead given to them by the cleverness and sharpness of Alexandra Popp.
It was 2010 when I was first introduced to Popp. Bayern Munich had lost a Champions League final and I wanted to keep myself busy during the summer. The U-20 World Cup was being televised and I took advantage. I remember watching her cleverness with awe. She seemed like she could do everything. I never quite forgot her and when she went on to have many successes with VfL Wolfsburg, I wondered why she wasn’t at Bayern (my Bayern heart refused to accept that Wolfsburg was just...better).
Imagine my surprise to find out that Popp missed both of the past two Euros. She has won every major honor (at different age levels, albeit) but she had never even made a Euro squad due to untimely injuries. She might’ve missed this one, had it been held last year on schedule. This summer, she’s finally here and her goals have gotten Germany this far. Popp, now much more mature than the breakout star I witnessed in 2010, hopefully has a trick or two left up her sleeve.
Watch Popp and you will see all the traits of a classic #9 and then some. She can be a fox-in-the-box much like Miroslav Klose and be a split second quicker to the ball much like Robert Lewandowski. She ghosts into the box sometimes like Leon Goretzka or Thomas Müller. She is a German legend in her own right.
Popp was visibly emotional after the game against France. She mentioned today (per ESPN): “I have to admit I am more emotional than I used to be because I know how I have arrived at this point. Being here, having the opportunity to perform and being fully fit at this stage makes me very proud.”
She missed out on Germany’s victory in 2013 due to injury but Popp stands proud today, wearing the armband and guiding her team to a final. She is a legend of the game but, despite that, Sunday will be a special day for her.
That’s the thing about legendary players like Popp; they never stop being hungry. And clearly, she is a woman on a mission.