On 3 September, Spain begin the defence of the UEFA European Championship in a country that lies in between the two 2008 host nations, yet had little chance of making those finals. But while Liechtenstein start as outsiders in UEFA EURO 2012 Group I against the holders, the Czech Republic, Scotland and Lithuania, the Alpine principality – home to just 35,000 people – have in recent years held Portugal and Slovakia, and beaten Latvia and Iceland.
Peter Jehle, who made his debut in goal aged 16 in the 1998 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan, remains the regular No1. The FC Vaduz player, formerly with Grasshopper-Club and Boavista FC, spoke to UEFA.com about their qualifying hopes, the special spirit within the Liechtenstein squad and his memories of 12 years of international football.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group?
Peter Jehle: Of course it is a very difficult group. We have very strong teams but first of all it is a great group for us because we have the honour of playing at Hampden Park in Scotland, one thing that is a dream for us because this stadium is world famous at national-team level. Then we have to play a very strong Spain team, at the moment maybe the best team in the world. And of course a Czech side that are also very difficult. In Lithuania we have a team that is maybe within our range, but it will be hard as in the last two qualifying campaigns they have shown they will be a good team in the future; they had really good results. It will be difficult but it is a fantastic group.
UEFA.com: Do teams take Liechtenstein more seriously than they used to?
Jehle: Other teams have seen our results and they are now aware that we can draw against or beat a team that is not concentrating against us. But normally we are of course the outsiders and it is still a very long way for us to go in the range of the medium-level teams. We will always be a small country with only a few professionals but our goal should be to have a team that is fully professional, and then we also have the advantage that as a small country we can get together many times and maybe get even better results.
UEFA.com: What does it mean for a country like Liechtenstein to be able to compete with the biggest nations?
Jehle: This is something I am very happy about, that FIFA and UEFA make it possible for smaller countries to play against the bigger countries. This is something rare in the sports world, this is a special thing about football.
This is what football is about – one ball, 90 minutes and 11 players against 11 players, even if one country has 250 million inhabitants or, like Liechtenstein, 35,000. For me personally it is a big advantage as I am now 28 and already have the luck to have 80 caps.
UEFA.com: Does having fewer players to choose from, and therefore a team that does not change much, help team spirit?
Jehle: That's right and there is one thing even more interesting – we are such a small country, with a lot of players I grew up as a child with, we have been friends since we were born, we went to school together. It is like a family and this one thing I personally really like and it is always an honour to play for Liechtenstein.
UEFA.com: What are your most memorable games with Liechtenstein?
Jehle: The game against England at Old Trafford in Manchester, playing Spain too. I also love to remember the games when we took some points especially the game at home against Portugal where we drew 2-2; that was an amazing moment.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.