Germany's preparations for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 have been far from serene due to the loss of half a dozen established players to injury or illness. Such disruption has done little to knock Silvia Neid's side of course, however, as was evident during their impressive 4-2 friendly victory last weekend against world champions Japan.
Célia Okoyino da Mbabi – the top scorer in EURO qualifying – struck twice in that match and the 1. FFC Frankfurt signing believes the newcomers to the squad have a "huge opportunity" to show their worth in Sweden and grasp their unexpected chance to help Germany to a sixth successive continental title.
Speaking to UEFA.com, the striker discussed this, her team's Group B rivals and how Germany have evolved as a side since the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup on home soil, where they exited to Japan in the quarter-finals.
UEFA.com: Germany have lost six key players to injury or illness over the last few weeks. How big of a shock was that?
Célia Okoyino da Mbabi: It was kind of unreal. It can always happen that one or two players get injured, but it continued like that and we all said: "What is going on here?" But we know what we can do. We have a good squad and we've become closer. The experienced players are helping the younger ones and we know we have to grow together as a team if we want to reach our goals.
We have improved progressively over the last few weeks and you could see in the game against Japan that we have learned from the mistakes we made in the games before. We played well against a worthy opponent in front of a big crowd and we are ready for EURO.
UEFA.com: Is UEFA Women's EURO 2013 a good opportunity for young players to shine?
Okoyino da Mbabi: It is a huge opportunity for the team to show what it is capable of and players who might not have featured in different circumstances can make headlines. There have been examples in men's football in the past where things like that have had a positive impact you would not have had otherwise.
UEFA.com: Germany have faced strong opposition in their pre-tournament friendlies and against France and the United States managed to overturn two-goal deficits. Was that a good experience?
Okoyino da Mbabi: That was a very useful experience because we successfully overturned those deficits against two top teams, which is something not every side is able to do. The game against the USA in Offenbach, where we did not play that well, was particularly satisfying because we showed good spirit. That is something we worked hard for and these are the basics to be successful in a tournament. We know we can come back, if necessary, be it after 60 or 90 minutes.
UEFA.com: So you are convinced Germany will have a successful campaign?
Okoyino da Mbabi: In a knockout game anything can happen, one unfortunate moment can decide the game and you do not get a second chance to turn things around. Little details can decide a game, that is why we have to be fully focused in every match.
UEFA.com: What of your Group B opponents, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway?
Okoyino da Mbabi: Every game will be challenging. The Dutch have a slightly different style to Iceland and Norway. Similar to us, they try to press hard in midfield and play solid as a team. They have improved a lot over the last few years. Icelandic and Norwegian players are a bit more physical. We have to wait and see how well they prepared. Norway are always strong at major tournaments. We have to give everything to prevail.
UEFA.com: You had a great 2012 and were the 17-goal top scorer in UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying. Do you like being in the limelight?
Okoyino da Mbabi: That is an inevitable consequence if you score so many goals. It is great that people expect me to score because that is my job and it creates enjoyment, but it is clear you cannot have a year like that every year − 2012 was outstanding. I have to continue working hard to help the team reach our goals and to further improve as a player.
UEFA.com: How difficult was it to get the disappointing World Cup quarter-final loss to Japan in 2011 out of your mind?
Okoyino da Mbabi: We had to reinvent ourselves a bit and took things game by game. Quite a few key players finished their careers after the World Cup and we had to find a new team and a new hierarchy. But we had a successful EURO campaign and it became obvious that something new would develop. We took the right direction and could integrate young players. And that is where we are standing now.
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