Memory, memory: German Horst Hrubesch, the former best striker known for his heading game, wants to win the Olympic Games


Paris 2024, his silver medal with the men at Rio 2016, retirement… FIFA spoke with the legendary coach of the German women’s team, Horst Hrubesch.

The German women’s team will participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games

Horst Hrubesch was the boys’ coach at Rio 2016 where he won a silver medal

FIFA has spoken to the former striker

After a disappointing FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, where Germany were eliminated in the group stage, Horst Hrubesch took charge of the team for the second time in his career. The coach then helped them book their place at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024, finishing third in the UEFA Women’s Nations League after beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the third-place play-off.

In France, Hrubesch will try to use his immense experience to help his team win a medal, as he did with the men’s team in 2016 in Rio, where Germany took second place on the podium.

FIFA spoke to the former striker, renowned for his header, ahead of the tournament in Paris to discuss his 2016 Olympic experience, women’s football in general and his work with the team. While he will hand over his coaching position to Christian Wück after the Games, Hrubesch made it clear that, despite his 73 years, he has no plans to retire just yet.

FIFA: The last FIFA Women’s World Cup was disappointing for Germany, but the team managed to qualify for the Olympic Games. How relieved were you after the match against the Netherlands?

Horst Hrubesch: The girls were obviously disappointed with the last World Cup, but they bounced back afterwards. We dominated the game against the Netherlands, even though they clearly put us under pressure. I know what it means for the girls to be at the Olympics and not only did we secure a place in Paris, but we also won the next four games in the Women’s EURO qualifiers (Germany are top of Group A4 in the EURO 2025 qualifiers).

You won a silver medal with the German men’s team at Rio 2016. What makes the Olympics so special?

My best memory is the Olympic Village, I have to say. The road to the Olympics is long and hard, but some of the girls on the team know what to expect – after all, they won gold in Brazil (at Rio 2016). What fascinates me about the Olympics is how other athletes experience the event. In the Olympic Village and in the Germany House, there were moments that I can’t describe, you just had to be there. It’s all fascinating and I was absorbed by it all, thinking: “Wow, if only I had known this before!” You don’t forget that kind of thing easily and it was totally different from any other sporting event.

Is it a special moment for you to be making your return to the Olympic Games?

I’m grateful that I got to have this experience. I never thought I’d go back, but the girls were so focused on this goal. So I said, ‘Okay, you have to qualify.’ I’m glad we did and now we have to work towards our goal.

You talk about the Olympic Games with great enthusiasm. How difficult is it to select the 18 players you can take to France, and of course to announce to the others that they have not been selected?

It’s obviously not an easy task. Fortunately, I have my staff with me and we will decide together which players we will take. We have more or less the squad, but we are still waiting in case of injuries.

The development of women’s football over the last 20 years has been phenomenal. What do you see as the current trends?

At the recent European Championship in England we saw that there was a real boom. A lot of teams have become stronger over the years and the main thing that has changed is the physical side. The speed has also changed and I think we have really reached a high level.

What do you think of your opponents at the Olympic Games: the United States, Zambia and Australia?

I would say all the teams are on the same level as the United States. Australia had a great World Cup at home and have a strong physical presence. Zambia have three great attackers, so it won’t be an easy group. The important thing is that our opponents will certainly not be eager to play us either. It will come down to speed and physicality, and we have to be prepared to push a little bit more.

Who are the favorites?

You could almost choose any team. All the participating teams are very close to each other. The French will be at home so they will definitely be there. But I think many teams can believe in their chances.

Can we envisage a Germany-France final?

I wouldn’t say no. I haven’t completely forgotten that we lost 2-1 (in the Nations League semi-final). In the second half, we showed what we were capable of and I would have liked to win this Nations League.

You obviously intend to bring home a medal…

Yes, of course. At the Olympics, they often say, “The important thing is to take part.” But when you’ve spent so much time to get there, you just have to try to be among the medallists. After all, it’s only six games! I tried to make the girls understand that. They have to have personal expectations. That starts from childhood, actually. You always have to aim higher. The Bundesliga, then the national team, the European Championship, the World Cup. And why not the Olympics? If we have the chance, we will.

Listening to you, everything seems so simple…

Football can be simple. At the end of the day, you have to go out on the pitch and ask yourself, ‘Am I just part of the team or can I make an impact on the game?’ I prefer to go out on the pitch and make an impact, so I do everything I can to do that. And if someone is better than me that day, I have to accept that. That’s what we’re going to do from the start and give it our all.

Looking at you and listening to you, it’s hard to believe that you’re going to hand over the reins of the team to Christian Wück, the U-17 men’s world champion with Germany, after the Olympics. What are you going to do next? Are you going to retire?

No, I’m not going to retire. I have other ideas in mind and they don’t only concern football. As long as I’m healthy and can still do things, I will. I’m not the type to stay at home, sitting on a couch or on a park bench, waiting for God to come and tap me on the shoulder. There are still many things to live on this Earth.

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