Ralf Peter has led Germany to victory in both previous Women's U17 finals and as he attempts to make it three out of three, he spoke to UEFA.com about their meticulous preparations.
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Twice the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship has been held since its inception in 2007/08; twice Ralf Peter has led Germany to the title. Next week he will attempt to make it three out of three as they prepare to face the Republic of Ireland in the semi-finals on Tuesday in Nyon. Peter spoke to UEFA.com about the pressure of being favourites and just why Germany dominate European women's football.
UEFA.com: You have already won the title twice, what are your chances of winning it a third time?
Ralf Peter: If you make it to the final four there is always a chance of winning the title. Like every year, it will not be an easy task, but we are optimistic about our chances of winning the title for a third time. We have studied our opponents by watching videos and as I said before, it will definitely not be easy.
UEFA.com: Who, in your opinion, are your most difficult opponents?
Peter: All the teams have their strengths and weaknesses. The Irish play with a lot of heart, are physically strong and run with the ball well. The Dutch are dangerous if you let them play too much and the Spanish have a strong attacking presence. It's hard to say. All three of the teams are on the same level in my opinion. I believe that any one of these four teams could win the tournament.
UEFA.com: Is it hard to have Ireland, the hardest team to work out, as your opening opponents or have you analysed your opponents enough that you feel you are perfectly prepared?
Peter: We studied the match between Ireland and Sweden. The Ireland team play the way we expect the Irish to – simple and direct football with a lot of running. They are an unknown quantity to an extent and couple that with their desire to reach the final, which for them would be a huge achievement, makes them dangerous and difficult to work out. They have nothing to lose. Overall, we know we can swing it in our favour, we are the favourites and we know the pressure is on us.
UEFA.com: Since this competition has been brought into existence, Germany have remained unbeaten. Is this a sign of a strong grassroots programme in Germany?
Peter: Yes, we have developed a strong plan and a good philosophy that filters through from the senior team all the way to the U15s. We play the same systems and take our time to get the younger players immersed in our style of play, and I believe the system is working in perfect tandem right now. This has most definitely played a part in our success, I also have to say that ultimately the DFB [German Football Association] has shown fantastic support which allows us to prepare for the tournaments in optimal conditions. Our aim is to pay them back by using their input to win our matches.
UEFA.com: Despite three wins in the second qualifying round you were not completely satisfied with how your team attacked. How have you gone about rectifying these problems?
Peter: Naturally we are always working on where we are weakest. It can also be said, though, that we do not have the attacking options this year that we have had in the past two years. The two quality strikers I coached now play in the U19 team and are therefore ineligible. Because of this we have a very young strike force. This year we have three strikers who were born in 1994 who are very talented and I believe that we can expect good things from them in the future.
UEFA.com: Some of your players have regular places in the Bundesliga. How important is it for your team that some of the players are already adding to their experience?
Peter: It's very important. For my players to be a regular part of top clubs like Potsdam or Duisburg is of course fantastic as these ladies are playing alongside women from the national side. Some of them have played in the Champions League and cup finals. It can only be a positive when the top clubs in the Bundesliga are willing to support the young German talent that is out there.