Apollon Limassol LFC coach Christakis Christoforou is hopeful his side can emulate their impressive showing in last season's UEFA Women's Champions League as they kick off their qualifying round campaign on Thursday.
The Cypriot team caused perhaps the biggest shock in European women's club competition history with the 4-1 defeat of Umeå IK at this stage last term that ended the campaign of the two-time champions; Apollon then ran 2009 runners-up Zvezda-2005 close in the round of 32. Apollon are again mini-tournament hosts from Thursday against FC Progrès Niedercorn, FC Legenda Chernigiv and Swansea City LFC in Group 7, and confidence is high.
"I believe we are capable of repeating our success of last season," said Christoforou, whose side have won the Cypriot league three years in a row. "But we shouldn't be looking too far ahead. We first need to negotiate the first qualifying round."
Since their run last season, Teodora Drãgoescu and Christiana Solomou have moved on but Scottish internationals Hayley Lauder and Frankie Brown have joined a cosmopolitan Apollon squad. "We are definitely stronger than last year," Christoforou said. "We've lost a couple of players but have brought in some new players to strengthen our squad. Pre-season went well and we are ready for Thursday."
Speaking about his team's Group 7 opponents, Christoforou added: "Without underestimating any side, I think Progrès [from Luxembourg] are the weakest team but Swansea and Legenda will both be a big challenge for us. Swansea are a very physical side and play a British style of football while Legenda are in a league [the Ukrainian] which is at a much higher level than ours."
Christoforou has also credited his club with flying the flag for women's football in Cyprus. "Women's football gets more notice in Cyprus now," he said. "Since our success, more people are starting to realise women's football deserves attention. At our academy we are getting more girls joining each year and we even saw a lot of public interest from the televised matches of the Women's World Cup. This year we will also have our first senior women's national team so
I believe we are shedding the taboo attached to women's football in Cyprus."
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