Santa answers Käld call

Finland coach Michael Käld admits that playing hosts England in their opener is a dream come true.

Plum opener
Their reward for surprising Russia in the play-offs is a plum opening tie against hosts England on 5 June, before facing Sweden and Denmark in Group A. And coach Michael Käld admits their first fixture is the one he wanted. You must be very pleased with the draw, especially as you will be opening your campaign at the City of Manchester stadium?

Michael Käld: I'm very pleased with the draw. Before I came here I sent a letter to Father Christmas. I wrote in it that I wanted to play against England, that I wanted to play against Sweden and one other team which wasn't Denmark. For Finnish women's football, 5 June will be a great day - for us to play against the home team in such a wonderful stadium really is great. Women's football seems to be booming in Finland, with the country having staged last year's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship and your qualifying for WOMEN'S EURO 2005. Has the profile of the team improved a lot?

Käld: That's true. You can see in Finland that the media are now writing all the time about women's and girls' football which is obviously a very good thing. A good example is last week's training camp near Helsinki: normally there would be no interest for a winter camp but TV crews and written press were there covering us. Our players are now big stars in Finland which is something new. Has your team felt the benefit of players such as Laura Kalmari, Sanna Valkonen and Jessica Julin moving to big European clubs?

Käld: Yes. It's been very good for the team that players have gone abroad to join Umeå IK in Sweden and others have gone to Norway. As a coach, it's great for me because when they come back to play for us they've been playing at a top level regularly. That's why we're improving all the time. Does the fact that you're the lowest-ranked team of the eight in the finals take the pressure off at all?

Käld: Let's hope so. We might be the lowest ranked but we had so many positive moments during 2004 that the players are increasingly confident and determined before games. We improved for every match and that means that we'll come to England with great self-confidence. Finland made a great job of staging the women's U19s last year. Are you expecting the Football Association to do the same this summer?

Käld: The weather in Finland wasn't great for the first week and it might be the same here! In Finland the games were on a very high level and I know for a fact that it will be a good competition here in June too.