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For years the enforcer in the middle of Sweden's midfield, Nilla Fischer will be at the heart of their defence at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 on home soil in July.
The Linköpings FC player did occasionally fill in at the back for her country but the position has truly become her own this year under new coach Pia Sundhage. Fischer, 28, is nearing her seventh major tournament in eight years, with a 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup bronze the highlight, and she tells UEFA.com about what has changed under Sundhage, why Sweden should win all three Group A games and her approach to 100 caps – a mark she reaches on her next appearance.
UEFA.com: How have things changed under Pia Sundhage?
Nilla Fischer: It's been intense, higher-tempo training, more people trying to show themselves. As always, under a new boss, it's back to basics. Everything is put back to zero and everyone has the chance to play for a position. Lots of tempo, lots of energy and full steam ahead.
UEFA.com: Are there any concrete things you have seen being developed?
Fischer: The difference is in our defensive play where we have to be more aggressive, more focused on winning the ball, instead of just moving and stopping the opponent playing forward. We want to win the ball in every situation. Really try to win the ball every time. Then she's very good at improving what we are good at, and if it's less good, we are told, and I like that.
UEFA.com: What expectations do you have for your group?
Fischer: On paper we are better than the other three teams, so if everything goes to plan we should go through from the group with three victories. But it's going to be tough. Denmark are a team with great ball skills, good at keeping the ball, so it's all about trying to disrupt them doing that and trying to control the game. Finland are physically strong, good with the ball as well, and we have to take the fight to them and show them who's boss. Italy are technically brilliant, good physically, but after 90 minutes we have to win that as well.
UEFA.com: Is your third place at the World Cup inspiring you this summer?
Fischer: Well, that's a great memory, but that was then and this is now. But of course it's a great thing to bring with you. We know what it takes, we know what it feels like, and when you know what it feels like to win bronze, then you want gold. You want to experience that feeling again. It's good to have that with you. But it's a new year now so we'll have to wait and see.
UEFA.com: You live and play in host city Linkoping. How is the finals build-up there?
Fischer: It feels good, it feels like everyone with an interest in football is working hard. There are EURO flags in the town, for example. The council is working hard to generate interest. I don't know how many tickets have been sold in Linkoping specifically, but they are working hard at that. Football is being discussed more and I think that will increase as we get closer. It's great to see how hard they are working to get people involved.
UEFA.com: Can you describe how you felt when you first pulled on the national shirt in 2001?
Fischer: It's one of the most vivid memories in my life – I came on and played five minutes against Norway in La Manga, and got to touch the ball three times. To pull on that jersey and then get to play with your icons, that was one of the best things ever. I felt incredibly proud and excited, it was definitely something I wanted to do again.
UEFA.com: Does that excitement remain now you have 99 caps?
Fischer: Yes. I want to play for as long as I can. I'd like to continue to represent my country, to travel as you do, which I love. I want to play for the national team as long as the coach will let me, and there's no tiredness at all. I look forward to every single match, always.
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