Alexandra Popp did so well at the European Championships that she showed up at the press conference before Sunday’s final with a false mustache and jokingly offered herself as the scorer Germany needs – not only in the women’s team, but also in the men’s team.
Popp, who is playing her first Euro since injury ruled her out of 2013 and 2017 and has overcome a career-threatening injury that could have forced her to miss this tournament as well, has scored in every game this summer. She scored six goals in total, making her the top scorer along with Beth Meade, and she scored 59 goals in total in 119 international games. And all this at a time when the men’s team was struggling to find a scorer.
On Friday, she sat down in front of the media and took off her Covid mask, revealing a mustache underneath. “Hi,” she said in an exaggeratedly low voice before bursting into laughter. “I am Alexander,” she said. Beside her, teammate Cathy Hendrich laughed as she said, “That suits you.”
“The German Football Association has good physiotherapists with kinesio tapes: I quickly trimmed my mustache with them,” said Popp, who looks a bit like Homer Simpson playing Guy Incognito. “I think that it’s [joke] corresponds to the mood in the team,” she added. “The final on Sunday is going to be tough mentally and physically,” Popp said, her mustache already removed, but no signs of nervousness.
“I think the pressure is more on the English side precisely because it’s happening in their own country,” Popp said, recalling their World Cup experience when they lost in the quarter-finals. “We have known this since 2011: all of a sudden everyone expects something from you. We have nothing to lose and we have the mindset that we can get into the game for free.”
The joke was inspired by comments on social media and elsewhere, such as the satirical website Der Postillon among many who compared it favorably to the men’s team by posting a fake article headlined: “Hansi Flick picks rookie Alexander Papp for the Nationalmannschaft.”
The article featured a photo of Popp with an added mustache, asking “Is this young man the missing piece in the puzzle for Qatar?” It began like this: “National team coach Hansi Flick unexpectedly called in a previously unknown striker Alexander Papp. “Everyone knows we’ve had big problems in the past as a striker,” Flick said. “We want to start a new chapter with Alexandra, uh, Alexander. She has, uh, great positional play, a fantastic nose for goals and a composure when finishing. She has one business in England first.”
There was one problem, Popp said on Friday: when the men’s World Cup takes place in November, she will still compete in the Champions League with her club Wolfsburg.