As Sweden bid to defend the WU19 title, coach Calle Barrling lifts the pressure by billing Germany as favourites and discusses the values that embody Swedish football.
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The mantle of defending champions often brings with it an overriding sense of pressure and expectation. However, Sweden coach Calle Barrling added a welcome dose of reality when he spoke to UEFA.com about his team's hopes and aspirations for August's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Wales. Barrling also cast a studious eye over Group B rivals Germany, Norway and Finland and explained, with palpable enthusiasm, the values that embody the national side at every level.
UEFA.com: What was your initial reaction to the draw?
Calle Barrling: It's certainly an interesting one. There are two ways of playing football and both groups highlight this. One is made up of technical teams, the other includes sides that are physical and direct. We are satisfied with our group because we are used to playing the likes of Norway, Finland and even Germany; we've met them so many times. Also, we've avoided playing British teams [Wales and England] on their own soil which is always difficult.
UEFA.com: Does your win against Germany in qualifying last season give you an edge?
Barrling: Maybe. It gave us a boost last year, but this is a different tournament. But we know we can beat them – it was the first time in eight years we had managed to overcome Germany. However, the team they have this year is even stronger, so it will be tough. They are favourites not only for the group, but for the whole tournament. It's one of the best Germany teams I've ever seen. It will be a really tough, but also a nice challenge, and again, we made it last year, so why not.
UEFA.com: You have several players from last season, including Malin Diaz who scored your winning goal in the final against Spain ...
Barrling: Yes, including Malin Diaz we have seven if they are all fit. If you can speak about experience with 19-year-olds then they have got some experience. They did really well in the second round of qualifying, even if it was a struggle at times. We're extremely satisfied to be here, because Ireland and the Netherlands had good teams. We deserve to be here and now we'll see how far we can go.
UEFA.com: How have you coped with the transition from being hunters to hunted?
Barrling: We are not the hunted! That was a different tournament, with different players and so on. So no, but we are in the mood to win the Swedish way. We came back from 4-0 down to draw with Germany in the men's [FIFA] World Cup qualifiers, and for the first time the Under-17 girls progressed to the finals in Nyon. This is an exciting period for Swedish football.
UEFA.com: And like the men's senior team, you have a forward with Balkan ancestry …
Barrling: Marija Banušić – she's scored a lot of goals, that's her talent. Each player has a different skill set so she is no more important for us than anybody else. She's an interesting player but we have other players as well, and you have to remember it's a team sport.
UEFA.com: Is that what underpinned your triumph in Turkey last summer?
Barrling: Yes, these are Swedish values. Even Zlatan Ibrahimović is very good at this – we're in it together, that's our tradition and in our heart. When the winning goal came from Malin Diaz, of course it was important, but we won that final as a team. We'll continue this tradition in Wales.
Sweden kick off their campaign against Finland on 19 August.