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Sweden is one of many countries where much-travelled Finland midfielder Katri Nokso-Koivisto has played her football, and she says getting to face the hosts in UEFA Women's EURO 2013 Group A "will be awesome".
Now with Norwegian champions Lillestrøm SK, the 30-year-old Nokso-Koivisto talks to UEFA.com about Finland's underdog status, the "winning mentality" instilled by coach Andrée Jeglertz, and why her spell at Florida Atlantic University made her a fitness fanatic.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your three group opponents?
Katri Nokso-Koivisto: Obviously there are no bad teams in this tournament. But playing against Sweden especially will be awesome. You know, Finland always has a love-hate relationship with Sweden, and with them being hosts, they have a lot of pressure on them. And we have a lot of players who have played or are still playing in Sweden, so we know their team quite well. I think that game will be extraordinary.
Italy have some very talented players. And Denmark are a traditional Nordic team, they always play tough and are good tactically as well. I like the group we've got. I think we can make something happen.
UEFA.com: Are you expecting good support in Sweden?
Nokso-Koivisto: I think so, yes. They have been doing a pretty good job of selling the tickets. My friends and family are coming at least, and I am hoping some random people show up as well, just to support the team – because Finland have not had that many teams in a big tournament like this. Now would be a great time to come and support us.
UEFA.com: You got to the quarter-finals last time; how far can Finland go this time?
Nokso-Koivisto: I'm thinking that people probably don't expect too much from us, we are kind of the underdogs. But wouldn't people like it for the underdogs to make it quite far ...
UEFA.com: Though you haven't always been a regular, you're seemingly starting more and more for Finland; how are you enjoying that opportunity?
Nokso-Koivisto: Well, obviously, whenever you get the confidence and the feeling that the coach trusts you, it gives you a different feeling too, within the team. And it's nice to get a bigger role in the team.
UEFA.com: What is Andrée Jeglertz like as a coach?
Nokso-Koivisto: He's absolutely fabulous. He has given a lot to the team, he has brought a winning mentality that we maybe didn't have before. It took quite a while for us to get our game going, but nowadays when we can play our game, it's great. He has a lot of tactical stuff that has helped us a lot.
UEFA,com: What is the legacy of hosting the Women's EURO in 2009?
Nokso-Koivisto: We still have some of the players from that team. There is a lot of experience you can bring from that tournament, because you've been there and maybe you're not as nervous as the newer players who are here for the first time. It definitely helps, the more experience you have from those games and from that atmosphere.
UEFA.com: What is your prime memory of that tournament?
Nokso-Koivisto: It was great playing at home. It gave women's football in Finland a little more media attention and people got to know us a little better. But definitely playing for the home crowd is always a special feeling, and having lots of family and friends in the stands. It was nice that we made it to the quarters, sadly we didn't qualify from there, but it was a nice experience.
UEFA.com: How would you say women's football is becoming more professional?
Nokso-Koivisto: A lot of girls or women are starting to realise you have to be a complete athlete. It's not enough that you show up for training and games – you have to think like an athlete, act like an athlete. You need to eat well and sleep well and train well. And a lot of extra training too – it's not enough just with your club training. A lot of people have started to realise it takes a little bit of sacrifice to make it.
UEFA: You also had your spell in college in America; how did that develop you as a player?
Nokso-Koivisto: I've played in the US, in Germany, in Sweden and now in Norway, so all the different countries have developed me in different ways, but especially from the US it was the fitness level. Never again will I complain about doing some running – they're crazy about their fitness and that has helped me a lot.
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