Russia have not won any of their 11 previous UEFA Women's EURO finals games – conceding a last-gasp equaliser to England three days ago – but must break that duck against Spain tonight in Norrkoping if they want to make the 2013 quarter-finals.
Crucial to their hopes is experienced goalkeeper Elvira Todua, who besides telling UEFA.com she played as a striker and used to enjoy judo, promised that her side will beat Spain after their frustrating contest with England.
UEFA.com: Have you had any special preparations for Spain?
Elvira Todua: No, the usual stuff. We went to the zoo on Tuesday, had some rest and fun. For me personally, the hardest game was against England. That was the first match against a British team in my career. Very difficult opponents for a goalkeeper – a British style with all those crosses. We've already met Spain. We can play anybody, we are not scared of anyone, but it is better to play Spain, a team of a similar standard. They are not France, definitely.
UEFA.com: Can you pick out somebody from the Spanish squad?
Todua: Veró Boquete. She was a player to watch when she played for Energia Voronezh in Russia and she is a player to watch now as well. All Spain's attacking is built around her. She can make a killer pass and is able to score herself. And they have a really good forward in Adriana.
UEFA.com: How would you rate your performances in the first two games?
Todua: I could have played better. It is hard to change anything at times, but you always think, 'What if I had taken a step to the left or to the right, could I have got that ball in that case?' It was very painful after the England match. I had not conceded for 92 minutes and then ... I was making correct decisions all game and then ...
Sometimes you are simply not able to change anything. You are not a god and the goal is eight metres wide. However, it is OK. We started with a loss [3-1 to France], continued with a draw and I think we will have a victory on Thursday.
UEFA.com: You are Russia's undisputed No1. Is it easier for you this way or would you prefer tougher competition?
Todua: My place in goal was not really safe after injury [last month], but I would prefer fierce competition as it forces you to progress and makes you better. However, I am the kind of person who will never be relaxed. I work hard anyway and force my potential replacements to do the same.
UEFA.com: How did you start playing football?
Todua: I took up many sports in childhood. Played basketball, practised judo. But then everything fell away gradually and only football was left. I played outfield until I was 14. I was in the boys' team and the coach decided it was too dangerous in goal for a girl. I was a striker. Thanks to that experience I am good with my feet and good at reading the game. I know what to anticipate from forwards.
UEFA.com: Who is the leader of the team? Who is the funniest? And who is the most serious?
Todua: Olesya Kurochkina is the funniest person, no doubt about that. She is the one that picks us up, a very helpful 'crazy' person in the team. Valentina Savchenkova is very ambitious and takes everything seriously. You can forget about telling her everything was fine if she knows she played badly. A very self-critical and ambitious girl. As for the leader, it is the captain [Ksenia Tsybutovich]. However, we have a very friendly team. We always look out for each other. And that comes from having played together for the youth teams.
UEFA.com: Does your experience with FC Rossiyanka in the UEFA Women's Champions League help you here?
Todua: It's very helpful. Russian league standards are not those of international football, unfortunately – our domestic championship does not allow us to get beyond the quarter-finals [in Europe].
But it is easier for me in the national team after playing Champions League football. And having faced [European club champions] Wolfsburg, I am not scared of anything. Neither France, nor Norway. I think Wolfsburg deserved to win the Champions League this year.
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