As the 2015 Women’s World Cup came to an end with confetti raining down on the United States, German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer’s international career ended a day earlier with an extra time loss to England in the third place match.
It was the ending that she and her teammates didn’t want, but it wasn’t the first time their dreams had ended in extra time. Four years earlier, the two-time defending champions found themselves on the losing side in extra time to eventual champions Japan.
While Angerer didn’t walk away a champion, her journey is one that many soccer players wish could last as long as it did.
“I think it’s amazing still to be able to say, after almost 20 years in competitive sport: my body’s feeling really good,” Angerer said in a statement released by the German Soccer Federation in May. “It was also important for me to decide when I was going to call it a day and not to have the end of my career determined by an injury or for somebody else to decide for me.”
Joining the German squad after the team failed to advance from the group stage in the 1996 Olympics, the 17-year-old made her international debut against the Netherlands on August 27. During the match, Angerer only played the opening half but the Germans earned a 3-0 win.
After the opening cap, Angerer had to wait for limited opportunities to play behind long-time starter Silke Rottenberg. After watching her team win the 1997 European Championship, she got the chance to play against the United States in 1998. Despite playing only 18 minutes, Angerer helped maintain a 1-1 draw against the Americans at the St. Louis Soccer Park.
Sitting on the sidelines, the goalkeeper saw a dynasty emerge. After being the backup for the 1999 World Cup team that lost the United States, Germany won the Bronze Medal at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the European Championships in 2001 and 2005 and their first Women’s World Cup in 2003.
In 2007 Angerer got her chance to take over the German net after Rottenberg tore her ACL in January then tore a calf muscle in July while staging a comeback.
When the injury was announced, German head coach Silvia Neid was confident in Angerer. “The team was in the lucky situation of having two world-class goalkeepers on the team.”
With the pressure of being defending World Champions, Angerer stepped up doing something no goalkeeper had ever done. In the six matches at the 2007 World Cup, Angerer didn’t allow a goal for 540 minutes becoming the first women’s team to repeat as champions while the 28-year-old goalkeeper became the first keeper, men’s or women’s, to shutout opponents for the entire World Cup.
After sitting on the sidelines for over 10 years, Angerer did not relinquish her role and continued to thrive. The following year Germany won their third-straight bronze medal at the Olympics and then followed up with a fifth European championship.
The German dominance took a step back during the 2011 World Cup.
After earning her 100th cap in a 1-0 win over Nigeria, the first painful extra-time defeat was written. Scoreless after 90 minutes with Japan, a goal in the 108th minute by substitute Karina Maruyama sent the two-time defending champions home in the Round of 16. The loss also kept Germany from the 2012 Olympics in Great Britain, ending Angerer’s quest for a gold medal.
Unable to compete at the Olympics, Germany got its revenge at the 2012 Algarve Cup in Portugal. Leading 3-2 entering stoppage time, Japan got a late equalizer from Yuki Ogimi. Germany answered minutes later with a second goal from Celia Sasic to win the title for the first time since 2006.
Angerer earned FIFA Women’s Player of the Year honors in 2013, becoming the first goalkeeper to earn the honor. She will play the remainder of the season in goal for the Portland Thorns before stepping away from the game in the fall.