A television commercial running daily in Germany shows a bunch of guys drinking beer in a gritty establishment and discussing who is the best football player of all time. Maradona, says one. Pele, counters another. Beckenbauer, states the third.

The barman turns to a macho-looking, biker-type senior citizen for the definitive ruling: Prinz. Birgit Prinz, he says with authority.

No one argues.

Few would dispute that Prinz has left a lasting mark in the sport, even before her fifth World Cup kicks off Sunday. If she scores, Prinz will become the first woman to have to collect at least one goal in five World Cups. She leads the all-time list with 14 goals.

At 33, Prinz is a household name in Germany with a staggering 212 caps and 128 goals, hence the commercial promoting the tournament by trading on the three-time FIFA player of the year's reputation.

So renowned is her talent, Prinz once turned down an offer to try out for the men's team of Perugia in Italy.

The depth of Germany's team, however, is illustrated by the fact that not even Prinz's position is guaranteed. She is approaching the end of her career and is under pressure from younger players, such as 20-year-old Alexandra Popp, who has nine goals in 12 games and is making a case for being in the starting lineup.

Now that a right ankle injury in the build up to the tournament has healed, Prinz is ready to lead Germany's attempt to become the first nation to win the World Cup three times in a row.

''I have a feeling that we have prepared very well,'' Prinz said. ''I think we have grown as a unit, as we did in 2003 and 2007. And I think we have perhaps an even better balanced team than in the last two World Cups.''

The United States may be the No. 1-ranked team in the world, but the Germans will be hard to beat at home after having prepared for more than two months. Coach Silvia Neid's team won all four warm-up games, scoring a combined 15 goals and conceding none.

When Germany won its second title in China four years ago, the team didn't concede a single goal.

Two of Germany's warm-up rivals were World Cup finalists - Germany beating North Korea 2-0 and Norway 3-0.

''Our goal is clear, we want to win the title. But there are many teams that are capable of winning the World Cup. We have a lot of respect for many teams,'' said Neid, whose contract was extended early by another three years by the German football federation.

The Americans have beaten Germany in the past three encounters between the teams, and they are set to meet in the semifinals.

Brazil, beaten 2-0 by the Germans in the final four years ago, feature Marta, five-time player of the year. The only time Brazil has beaten Germany in nine attempts was at the 2008 Olympics.

Bruno Bini, the coach of improving France, thinks Germany is definitely the team to beat.

''There are two favorites, Germany and - Germany again,'' Bini said.

Still, he praised his own team.

''We scored 50 goals in qualifying and didn't concede, and Lyon won the Champions League,'' Bini said.