Jennifer Hermoso does not live far from the Friends Arena in Solna, but, when UEFA Women's EURO 2013 kicked off ten days ago, she probably did not think she had a real chance of stepping out there with Spain in next Sunday's showpiece.
The Tyresö FF midfielder has proved a crucial cog in the Spain side that beat England 3-2, lost narrowly 1-0 to France then drew 1-1 with Russia to ensure their first finals campaign for 16 years will continue into a Monday quarter-final with Norway in Kalmar. The 23-year-old only broke into the Spain squad in autumn 2011 and made two substitute appearances in the group stage of their qualifying campaign, but she started both legs of the dramatic play-off defeat of Scotland and opened her goalscoring account against England. Hermoso spoke to UEFA.com about her team's run, their tactics against Norway and how they now "dream big".
UEFA.com: How is the team feeling after reaching the quarter-finals?
Jennifer Hermoso: You can imagine ... We came here as underdogs and now we're in the quarter-finals. It's a very nice challenge that lies ahead. I think we're playing well and we deserve to be here, so we are very happy. Personally I feel good, and I'm experiencing something unique. You go a step further and you grow because we are facing the best players in Europe. These games make you stronger.
UEFA.com: How you rate your group stage performance?
Hermoso: Good, but on Thursday we would have liked to have won [against Russia]; I think we could have won. We needed a point and in the end we got it. Against England, we played very well, against France we almost drew, losing just 1-0. I think this group stage proved that we deserve to be here, that we are not here by luck.
UEFA.com: What was lacking in the draw with Russia?
Hermoso: We had a lot of opportunities but we lacked the final pass, to be more effective in front of goal. We had several chances and I thought we played much better than them but we lacked some intensity; we were not at the same pace as in the other two games. Maybe that happened because it was the last game and we were more tired.
UEFA.com: Your next opponents, Norway, are very strong physically. Will Spain try to dominate possession to counter that?
Hermoso: We must have the ball. Norway are based on a more physical game. They're more powerful, and considering that our style of play is all about touching and holding the ball, keeping possession is the key. That's our kind of game, so we must remain faithful to it until the end of the tournament. Norway beat Germany, and from what people say, they're very strong and have good players. Maybe they're less well known, but they're good enough to be in the European Championship and go through to the semi-finals. The match not will be easy.
UEFA.com: When it seemed likely Spain would come second in Group C, you looked set to play Germany as Group B winners, only for them to lose to Norway. What was your reaction to that?
Hermoso: If you play against Germany, you know that anything can happen; you're going to play the game without any pressure, having fun and trying to do your best against Germany. It's true that now, against Norway, we think that we have a chance to be in the semi-finals, but regardless of the opponent in the quarter-finals, it's a match where anything can happen.
UEFA.com: How far do you think Spain can go?
Hermoso: Now we are in the quarter-finals, so we can have another goal: to be in the semi-finals. Who knows? We can do it. Now we can 'dream big' [Spain's tournament motto].
UEFA.com: You were named player of the match against England and you have started all three group stage games. What is your contribution to the team?
Hermoso: I bring to the team a little pause, the tempo needed between the lines. I am a player who goes for one-touch play, so the style of play of Spain is really good for me. The midfielders, and the understanding that we have, helps me in my game. I feel very comfortable with the team and I think the team feels good with me.
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