FC Rossiyanka are through to their third European quarter-final – but standing in their way once again are German opposition.
In 2007/08 the Russian side reached the last eight in their second season of continental football but fell 2-1 on aggregate to eventual winners 1. FFC Frankfurt. Then, 12 months ago, after two UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 exits in a row, they returned to the quarters, only to find 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam too strong.
Now, having beaten AC Sparta Praha 3-2 overall despite being held 2-2 in the home second leg, Rossiyanka are up against tough competition debutants VfL Wolfsburg in late March. They will at least have some inside knowledge from their new German coach Achim-Matthias Feifel, formerly of Wolfsburg's Frauen Bundesiga rivals Hamburger SV.
Rossiyanka goalkeeper Elvira Todua and defender Anna Kozhnikova spoke to UEFA.com about his arrival and their ambitions against Wolfsburg.
UEFA.com: You have made it to the last eight; what has been the hardest thing about this competition so far?
Anna Kozhnikova: Every game is hard in a way, including the away matches. Actually, the away games have been easier, we've managed to give a better account of ourselves in them. [Against Sparta in Prague] the first half wasn't so good, but the second half was better. I would say they were not a bad team at all, a strong team. So in a way we were lucky to play that well, but thank God we got through. As for me, it was hard to miss the second leg. I had two yellow cards, and watching from the sidelines is much harder than playing. It's nerve-racking.
UEFA.com: How can you improve further for Wolfsburg?
Elvira Todua: We haven't looked too deeply into it, we haven't talked much, but we watched their games in the last 32 and 16. They're a strong team, with 12 internationals. We're not novices, we understand that the level of their team is very high. If a German club set a goal to develop a new strong team, everybody expects that they will reach the standard of Potsdam, Frankfurt and many others. They are considered a new team in the Champions League, but probably one of the best ones.
Kozhnikova: Physically we have to be at the highest level, because if you make mistakes it's easier to make up for them. And also tactically, because from time to time we get in new foreign players and so we don't have that consistency as a unit, where we have all been playing together for a long time.
UEFA.com: Will having a new German coach help against a German club?
Kozhnikova: I think it definitely can – who better knows the German mentality and how Germans play? Everybody knows them, the team is not new; however there may be some secrets that he can reveal. I think he can.
Todua: You know, we've had lots of different staff from around the world, different types of coaches. What I can say about this coach is that order and discipline beat class. That is why he teaches us order. We have lots of youngsters, and I think it's the right way to do it.
UEFA.com: In 2009, WFC Zvezda 2005 Perm got to the final. Do you think Russian football is strong enough to do that again?
Todua: I think it's essential – it will stimulate our development and give everyone a lift. We've already had one boom in women's football but then we fell into the abyss, at national-team level. While Zvezda reached the final, [Rossiyanka] have played in the Champions League many times, we've been in the quarter-finals more than once, and we want to get through this stage. Having played the quarter-finals before, we want to get to the semis.
Kozhnikova: I think it's strong enough. And more than one Russian club is capable of doing it. Zvezda have a stable squad, they'd been playing together for several years. They had one long-serving coach and they coped without a lot of foreign players, but I think we can do well too. And there are other Russian clubs I don't think are any weaker.
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