Tyresö FF "will not give up on our dream," coach Tony Gustavsson tells UEFA.com as they prepare to face Birmingham City LFC in the semis in the midst of a club crisis.
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Tyresö FF have made it to the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals at their first attempt – but know they may never get as good a chance to win the trophy.
During a troubled winter the 2012 Swedish champions flirted with bankruptcy and although they were saved, a financial reconstruction means that key players Marta and Caroline Seger will leave in June, following the likes of Verónica Boquete, Christen Press, Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg out of the door in the summer. Despite that, they saw off SV Neulengbach 8-1 on aggregate in the last eight and on Saturday visit Birmingham City LFC for their semi-final first leg. Coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: Recently off-pitch news has dominated at Tyresö. How have you kept the players' focus on football?
Tony Gustavsson: We have reminded each other, that no matter what, we will not give up on our dream. Like our captain Caroline Seger said: "There is only one possibility. For us to stand together united until this battle is won and play like there is no tomorrow."
Yes, we have had the odds stacked against us. Injuries, having to reduce players and staff, and a heavy fog of financial problems. But even in the roughest of stormy winds, we refuse to give up.
UEFA.com: Last week news broke that several leading players would leave the club after May. For players like Seger, Marta and Boquete, a final in Lisbon would be the last thing they do for the club. Can you use that fact when motivating the team?
Gustavsson: Definitely. Because we want to remember this as the moment when we saved our dream. We want to remember this as the moment when we made our mark on the world of football and inspired all the coaches, players and children out there to keep believing in their dreams.
UEFA.com: But before a possible 22 May final in Lisbon, there is the matter of Birmingham in the semi-final. What is your impression of them?
Gustavsson: I was very impressed with their performance against Arsenal where they showed what they are all about. A team that is disciplined, well-organised and with a great work ethic. They have an interesting mix of experienced quality players such as [Karen] Carney, [Jade] Moore and [Jo] Potter and younger inspiring players such as [Kirsty] Linnett, [Melissa] Lawley and [Aoife] Mannion.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to start away from home and then have the second leg at Tyresö?
Gustavsson: We know it will be a very tough challenge playing Birmingham in Solihull on Saturday. We will of course try to repeat our performances from our previous Champions League away matches where we have defended very solidly, conceding one goal in three games.
We are very pleased to have the advantage of finishing at home on artificial turf where we can play faster, attack-minded football. We love to play in front of our fantastic supporters and have had the privilege of scoring 14 goals in three games in the Champions League and an average of 3.8 goals a game in the league when playing at Tyresövallen.