As the U.S. women’s national team continues its World Cup preparation, much of the conversation centers around the midfield arrangement. In the absence of Julie Ertz, a ball-winner who was so crucial to the team’s previous successes, head coach Vlatko Andonovski has turned towards the ‘double pivot,’ fielding two players at the base of midfield. At the heart of that decision is an acceptance that there isn’t any one individual who does what Ertz did. At least, not one available to the United States. The best defensive midfielder in the world right now is German, and her name is Lena Oberdorf.
At 21 years old, Oberdorf is on course for her third major international tournament this summer. She appeared for Germany at the 2019 World Cup, sitting school exams mid-tournament, starting their win over Spain at the age of 17. Since then, she has established herself not only as her country’s first-choice midfielder, but arguably their most important player, full stop. Her performances at EURO 2022 were a powerful statement. Oberdorf was a blur of movement and ferocious tackling. She played as if the ball belonged to her—like she’d brought it with her, and now wanted it back.
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