With Germany poised to enter qualifying for the forthcoming finals in Italy, Bettina Wiegmann told UEFA.com about her role as temporary coach and the dangers of competing at this stage.
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As Germany prepare to enter the second and final qualifying round for the forthcoming UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Italy, UEFA.com spoke to the team's stand-in coach Bettina Wiegmann, who is covering while Maren Meinert is on maternity leave.
The country with the highest coefficient, three-time winners Germany were given a bye through the first stage in September. Ahead of the mini-tournament in Wales from 31 March to 5 April - where they will meet the hosts, Iceland and Turkey - the former Germany midfielder explains the pitfalls of this stage, the importance of youth development and how she is taking to her new role.
UEFA.com: What aspects will you be working on ahead of the mini-tournament?
Bettina Wiegmann: We need to improve our attacking game.
We don't score enough goals; that's what we have to focus on. We have to be more efficient in front of goal. Of course, there is also a need to work on our defensive line. We still need to adjust our game because we had to give a rest to our 1993 players after they competed at the U-17 World Cup last year.
UEFA.com: You are playing Wales first, followed by Turkey and Iceland. Is it an advantage to play the strongest team last?
Wiegmann: We are not unhappy about playing Iceland at the end. That gives us the opportunity to observe the form of the team. We have to be fully focused in all our games because you can't take anything for granted any more − teams are closing the gap. We've studied videos of Turkey and Wales.
UEFA.com: Would you agree that the second qualifying round is a major challenge, given that only the group winners and one best runner-up will qualify for the finals?
Wiegmann: You cannot make any mistakes; you have to be careful and focused on the games from the very beginning. You don't know much about your opponents, even though they can be a threat. During qualification, anything can happen because your team can have a bad day. That's why I'm not yet thinking about the final tournament. We will be fully focused in all three games and we'll give everything to advance to the finals in Italy.
UEFA.com: Germany are three-time European champions but have not triumphed since 2007. How important is winning titles at U19 level?
Wiegmann: Our main goal is to develop young players and to produce players for the senior team, but if there is a chance of winning titles then we don't say no. However, we don't want to neglect the players' development just to be successful in a tournament.
UEFA.com: You are standing in as coach while Maren Meinert is on maternity leave. How has it been?
Wiegmann: To work as a head coach is a little different, but I know the players very well because I've been with the [various] teams for years. The only difference is that I have to talk more to the players, but I'm in constant contact with Maren Meinert and we are working hand in hand. Our approach is very similar, so we complement one another and there is no big difference.