It has been nine years since Umeå IK won Sweden's last European title, but UEFA Women's Champions League debutants Tyresö FF are ready to put that right.
Investment in big names like Brazil forward Marta – key to Umeå's 2004 triumph – and Spain striker Verónica Boquete landed them a maiden league championship last year and now they are set for the toughest of round of 32 ties against Paris Saint-Germain FC, whom they welcome for Wednesday's first leg. Marta and Boquete, fresh from signing new six-month deals this week, believe winning the Damallsvenskan proves they can go far in Europe.
UEFA.com: Are Tyresö good enough to win the trophy?
Marta: We have a team with the quality. I'm not bringing down the French league, but the Swedish league is better. We play matches here which are quite aggressive in a general sense. And that, without doubt, will help us reach a higher level in the Champions League.
Verónica Boquete: We want a good Champions League campaign. The best teams in Europe play in the Champions League, and Tyresö have just made their way there. Two or three years ago this team was still unknown, so it is difficult to compete with clubs with a long history and Champions League experience, but we have the players and the will to win. We have the desire to achieve big things. We know that Sweden's domestic league is very competitive, and we won it.
Our objective will be to reach the final in May. Many people say they don't believe in it – that it's our first season in the Champions League and to want to make it to the final is very optimistic – but that is our goal. Maybe we won't make it, but we will undoubtedly give everything we can and we have already been gaining respect in Europe without having really competed yet. People know Tyresö can play good football and that will also be important.
UEFA.com: What were the team's main strengths last year?
Boquete: Our playing style. Here in Sweden they are used to a more physical style of football with long balls, a more intense way of playing. Tyresö had a squad of players who prefer a different type of football, who like to pass the ball around more. We like to have possession, we just felt good having the ball. That made the difference, the difference in our style of play, and to achieve that result – to manage to win like that – makes the players confident about winning in this style.
UEFA.com: What did coach Tony Gustavsson's appointment bring?
Marta: For a team to compete in the Damallsvenskan, which is one of the best leagues at the moment, it takes work; and at the head of that work you need a boss. Tony fills that role very well. We, the players, feel very secure about what we can do, because he knows every detail that is necessary for us to play well collectively and individually.
UEFA.com: United States striker Christen Press joined this year and has made a huge impact ...
Marta: Yes, Press is a player who can play in different positions. Now we have the ability to switch all the time. Sometimes I drop back and she comes into the middle. She's a player with ability and she can finish very well.
UEFA.com: Marta, you won the former UEFA Women's Cup twice with Umeå. What status does this competition have around the world?
Marta: Today it has a bigger profile, today it's called the Champions League, whereas in the past it was the UEFA Cup, so that already [makes it comparable to] the men's Champions League. Today it's at the same level, it's considered the same thing apart from the different gender. That's important, it gives a bigger value to the competition.
Secondly, there are a lot of teams in Europe that dream about playing in a Champions League, and that means women's football grows every day and has an international reputation. It gives the competition stature. The decisions so far have already changed it a lot and it will grow even more.
UEFA.com: Veró, you came to the club when Marta arrived. How important has Marta been, with her experience, in achieving what you have done?
Boquete: Marta has always been my idol on the pitch, and still is for me personally. So to come here and have the chance to play with her ... If we were already favourites, then with Marta in our team we were obliged to win. She has always been there for the team, she has scored important goals.
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