With U17 titles won at European and world level, Switzerland will have their backers in Slovakia, but coach Heinz Moser's first aim is to lead his young charges out of Group A.
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With a rich history on the Under-17 stage, Switzerland bring a degree of expectation with them to final tournaments, and Heinz Moser's side will be no different this year in Slovakia at the UEFA European U17 Championship.
Winners of this trophy in 2002, as well as the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009, Swiss youngsters have a habit of picking up silverware. Moser, however, is not setting his immediate sights that high, giving his team the initial target of progress from a Group A containing Austria, Sweden and the Slovak hosts. "We have to take it one step at a time," said the coach, appointed in 2010. "Qualification for the final round is an achievement but now we want to get out of the group before we take stock."
UEFA.com: How do you feel about your preparations for the finals?
Heinz Moser: I would say the interesting part has begun. Now it is about putting the players that are at the training camp to the test and finding the definitive squad for the championship. We will see who stands out. One or two obviously have a small head start, especially those who played most of the qualifiers. Nevertheless, I want to see who makes an impression before I decide properly. In general, we are pleased that things are up and running and we can start preparing for this spectacle.
UEFA.com: You have made your aim for the tournament very clear – the semi-final is the goal. Austria and Slovakia are among your opponents, two teams you have faced in recent years. What are you expecting from them?
Moser: Austria are certainly on a level playing field with us. We drew 1-1 with them in the qualifying round. They ended up qualifying very impressively, coming out on top against the likes of Serbia. It will be a difficult task. We beat Slovakia twice in the autumn but they experimented with their lineup and tactics so we cannot really use that as a benchmark. I think they will be much better equipped this time after a long and promising preparation period.
UEFA.com: The third opponents are Sweden.
Moser: Sweden are definitely the unknown quantity. I am doing some serious analysis with plenty of videos. I have been impressed with what I have seen so far. They are a very athletic, dynamic and battling team.
UEFA.com: Irrespective of your opponents and ambitions, what can we expect from your team?
Moser: I cannot say yet how we will approach the games tactically, but I can say that we want to play attacking football.
UEFA.com: What do you think the atmosphere will be like in Slovakia?
Moser: When we played the friendly matches there last autumn, we saw what awaits us. The Slovaks were very passionate and pleasant. We are pleased we are in the same group as them. The interest in our group will be high because of Slovakia being hosts and we will benefit from that.
UEFA.com: A top-three group finish would qualify you for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. How much is this aspiration at the back of your mind?
Moser: We consciously made it a focal point but the players are confident regardless. The fact our aim is to get out of the group means we are not under extra pressure. We are simply spurred on even more. We, like every other team, have the next tournament in our sights and that in itself is a big motivator.
UEFA.com: The Switzerland U17s have excelled in the past. Do those successes raise expectations?
Moser: No. Successes merely show what is possible for us – and my team are fully aware of the success that has accompanied past Swiss U17 sides – so we are not under pressure. We have to take it one step at a time. Qualification for the final round is an achievement but now we want to get out of the group and then take stock. We have to wait and see how strong the other teams are before we predict anything.
UEFA.com: Young players are not used to being in the limelight. How will your team cope?
Moser: The players have started a maturing process. It was important for us to get through the elite round in our own country while under a media spotlight. That was where the lads got their first feel of what they can expect. I got the feeling at the beginning of the elite round the team were a little nervous and it took us time to get into our flow. We were a bit tense in the first game but, nonetheless, those experiences are really valuable. The more they can gather at their age, the better.