The 1st UEFA Women's National Team Coaches Conference opened on Monday with the main topic of discussion made clear by the event's subtitle: UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ and beyond.
Women's national coaches from 51 UEFA member nations, national technical directors and representatives from FIFA and other confederations are meeting at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, until Wednesday and were welcomed by UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh and the 2nd vice-chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee, Susanne Erlandsson. She praised Finland's role in hosting the European finals in August and September, and said the expansion of the tournament from eight to 12 teams "gave more countries the chance to experience top-class football".
Andy Roxburgh then presented key findings from the UEFA technical report on the final tournament, which was compiled with input from the UEFA technical team in Finland comprising national coaches Anna Noë (Belgium), Béatrice von Siebenthal (Switzerland), Anna Signeul (Scotland) and Ignacio Quereda (Spain). Technical topics highlighted in the report were presented and footage of key incidents screened, including the increasing importance of transition play and fast counterattacks – and defensive tactics to 'counter the counter'.
The best of the set plays in the tournament were shown to the delegates, and the UEFA technical director also examined the formations used by coaches in the finals, with the 4-2-3-1 set-up consistently used by eight of the 12 teams, though all were aiming for discipline in defence and fluidity in attack. Technical trends, the report noted, include the increasing quality of possession play and passing, and the greater use of screening midfielders and lone strikers – while there has been a decrease in the amount of space and time players have on the ball as well as a reduction in goalkeeping errors.
That was followed by a panel discussion involving the four coaches whose sides reached the semi-finals: Silvia Neid (Germany), Hope Powell (England), Bjarne Berntsen (Norway) and Vera Pauw (Netherlands), with Pauw speaking about the effect their run to the last four had in a nation who had never before qualified. "The impact of the results has been so immense and the clubs cannot cope with the number of female players who now want to play," Pauw said. Neid led Germany to their fifth straight European title and she explained how she had built a team with the hunger to win yet again. "I wanted to find out which players still had the thirst for success," she said. "You have to be motivated constantly and enjoy what you are doing, and give everything."
Her rivals were in agreement about Germany's strengths. Powell, whose side lost 6-2 to Germany in the final, said: "One of their biggest strengths is the belief they can always score, whatever the situation. It comes largely through counter[attacks] and if you can't cope with that you have a problem. We tried to take the game to them and it worked for a time but on the bench they have players who would get into most first teams and their strength, their power, the directness of their play always put you on the back foot." Berntsen, whose team were beaten 3-1 by Germany in the semi-finals, added: "We were leading 1-0, they brought on three players and they all scored. They have good coaching and many players that can change the game."
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