With just five games in the Bundesliga season, Marina Hegering travels to the European Football Championship. In England, the central defender trumps, driving opposing attackers to despair in rows. In the final, she loses out on the first goal she concedes - and is also responsible for a great deal of excitement.
"You stand there and think: 'What happens now?' It's such an emptiness in you. You just stand there and somehow think of everything and nothing at all." Marina Hegering describes the most bitter moments of the final of this European Football Championship. When the losers - the Germans - the winners - the English - have to watch them celebrate. If you have just witnessed how the winners are presented with the trophy and have to congratulate them as the losers.
It would be the first moment to think, in the more than 120 minutes before there was no time, the game at Wembley Stadium had demanded our full attention. Also Hegerings, although she was substituted in the 103rd minute. The "living bank" of the DFB team has become as famous as it is notorious over the four weeks of the tournament because it works hard and fights.
Instead of thinking, however, emptiness, instead of exuberant jubilation, deep sadness. It would have been the first international title for the central defender, and the 32-year-old has never been closer to a trophy than at this European Championship. This is due to the incredible career history of the future Wolfsburg player, who has been under contract with FC Bayern for the past two years. Because Hegering was injured more often than healthy.
In the past season she only played five Bundesliga games, her knee caused her big problems. But that was nothing compared to what she had already endured. Because although her career began promisingly - she already played for the DFB in the U15s, won the U20 World Cup in 2010 together with Alexandra Popp, Svenja Huth and Almuth Schult - she only made her debut in the senior national team at the age of 28 in April 2019 . Martina Voss-Tecklenburg had appointed her and nominated her directly for the subsequent World Cup in France. The two have known each other for a long time, with the former top team FCR 2001 Duisburg Hegering once trained under Voss-Tecklenburg. She made her Bundesliga debut when she was just 16, and together they won the 2009 UEFA Women's Cup, today's Champions League, and the DFB Cup twice.
Hardly any coach who knew Hegering less well would have trusted her - and she would have gained experience as a regular central defender in France with only a handful of international matches. "I had already given up hope of playing football at that level again and thought about quitting," she said of her own thoughts at the World Cup. Because Hegering injured her right heel, the wound didn't heal properly, her foot prevented her from playing, and she was operated on again and again. The drama dragged on for a total of six long years. She completed a sports degree, did a commercial apprenticeship, worked in a construction company, and football was only a sideline.
But she never lost her lust for him. In 2017 she actually played again in the Bundesliga for SGS Essen and thus made her way into the World Cup squad. She went to France because she had taken special leave from her employer to pursue her job as a footballer. It should be worth it, helped her turn pro later on. In 2020 she switched to FC Bayern and for the first time no longer had to work part-time - at the age of 30.
Now she is moving on to VfL Wolfsburg and, in addition to the sporting quality of the champions and cup winners, the job prospects were also convincing here. The defender had been promised that she would be able to switch to the coaching staff in a year or two. Like many other national players, she has already obtained her first coaching license, the B-plus license.
But before Hegering completed her first training session in Wolfsburg, she played on the big stage in England - and showed her future employer what she is capable of. Especially in the first two games against Denmark and Spain, there was no getting past her. Calm, cool, with an overview and brains - both well thought out and with headers - she let all opposing storm runs bounce off her. She was voted player of the match against Spain, which made her visibly uncomfortable. "It was a brutally good defensive performance, you can't really single anyone out. I see the award as a symbol and not that I've done anything special." According to statistics, however, she was the one who played the most incoming passes.
In the final, they scored 77 percent pass rate and 75 percent duel rate, again values that are impressive. But this final, it also offers the bitter punch line for Hegering, who must continue to wait for her first international title. Which she is not entirely innocent of. She could have become the decisive personality on the pitch - with a rash in both directions. It was she who put a foot on the ball in the 25th minute in a crowded penalty area in front of England goalkeeper Mary Earps and it jumped on an English arm.
The scene was checked by the video assistant, but was not found to be worthy of a penalty - which caused massive anger in the German delegation afterwards, both Voss-Tecklenburg and Joti Chatzialexiou, head of the national teams at the German Football Association, criticized this heavily. She doesn't want to talk about fraud, said the national coach. "But at the level of a final at the European Championships, that shouldn't happen." However, Hegering himself said: "I didn't even notice it live." In retrospect, it was "annoying" because of the pictures, but "we can't change it now, it is what it is".
But after 42 minutes, the penalty pendulum could have swung against her, when she was only on the spot twice with the greatest risk. First she cleared against Ellen White, then she tackled Lucy Bronze and just about got the ball before she cleared the Englishwoman. Even more unfortunate was their collective sleeping with fellow central defender Kathrin Hendrich when the English team scored the opener. They missed the starting Ella Toone, gave her free rein, which she used with a lob over goalkeeper Merle Frohms to make it 1-0.
A tragic moment for the player who played like never before at this European Championship. But she already has her sights set on her second world championship, which is scheduled for next year. "The World Cup qualifiers will continue at the end of the month," Hegering recalled when she had banished the first emptiness after the game. "I definitely want to keep playing football, if it's still good enough for the national football team, I'd be happy to be there." And how do you dispel this emptiness? "In the end, when the music starts, the mood shifts a bit again. Then you have a drink or two and then we can be proud."