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Pauritsch puts Liechtenstein in finals mode

Liechtenstein coach René Pauritsch talks to UEFA.com about having "two hearts beating in your chest", staying motivated and preparing "as if it were a final tournament".

Pauritsch puts Liechtenstein in finals mode
Pauritsch puts Liechtenstein in finals mode ©UEFA.com

Liechtenstein gained a creditable 0-0 draw against Montenegro on Thursday, and coach René Pauritsch is adamant his team will not lack for motivation for the rest of their UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group G campaign and beyond.

UEFA.com: How do you assess your qualifying opponents?

René Pauritsch: We are in one of the most even groups, with Austria, Sweden and Russia the three favourites to win it. Saying that, Montenegro and Moldova won't give up easily. Indeed, Montenegro could be a surprise package.

UEFA.com: How important is Mario Frick's experience to you, especially considering Martin Stocklasa's recent retirement?

Pauritsch: To me there are no old or young players, only good or bad players. Mario Frick is definitely one of the best in our country. He's had a long career, and as long as his body is ready then he will be positive for our national team. We are integrating a lot of young players and Mario Frick is as solid as a rock on the pitch – the younger players can rely on him during the game.

UEFA.com: What do young players lack in comparison with their older team-mates?

Pauritsch: It about how they deal with pressure. Most of them play in amateur leagues, so they don't know the pressure, they don't know the pace, and it is very important to have a pillar on the pitch to rely on, to pass the ball to, someone who helps with the mental aspect. I think that's the secret of an experienced player.

UEFA.com: You will face the country of your birth in qualifying …

Pauritsch: Of course it is a very interesting task. On the one hand you have two hearts beating in your chest, one being Austrian having supported them for decades – I am a proud Austrian. On the other hand, I have been working for years in Liechtenstein, so I need to see it in a pragmatic way. During the game there are no friends in red and white.

UEFA.com: What aspects of the game did you have to specifically work on with your team?

Pauritsch: There are two things we have to tackle. The first is a quick transition game as we win the ball back quite deep in our own half, so we have a long way to the opponents' goal. Secondly, we have to work on the number of goals we are conceding. Even when we are behind, we try to reduce the deficit – which opens up space for opponents.

UEFA.com: The new EURO qualifying format means smaller countries have more chance of qualifying – maybe some day Liechtenstein?

Pauritsch: Overall, I think the new format is excellent and means smaller countries really do have the chance to take part in a final tournament. For the smallest countries, it remains a problem – the same as in the past. I think we need to wait for the Nations League so that we really have the opportunity to qualify for a final tournament.

UEFA.com: What would participation in a final tournament mean to a country like Lichtenstein?

Pauritsch: A lot, of course – for us, for the national game, for the country. As a small nation it is always difficult. The fans and people always like to identify themselves with winners. In a country like ours that is very difficult, but I think our team show a lot of character in every game they play. They start a game with the same motivation: today is the day we spring a surprise. That mentality and character is appreciated across Europe.

UEFA.com: What are your objectives in this group?

Pauritsch: We always face tough opponents: 100 to 150 teams are tough opponents and tough tasks for us. The specific challenge for us, as I mentioned already, is to be motivated, to give everything and believe on the day. We now prepare for every game as seriously as we can – as if it was a final tournament – in order to get that extra couple of per cent from every player.

UEFA.com: How do you do that?

Pauritsch: When you are playing in a final tournament you have to win every single game in order to achieve something positive, and you then get the extra 3% in terms of mentality, plus the whole environment around us, the staff, the physios, the people who work with us, in order to give us that little extra.