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Switzerland's Küffer braced for German onslaught

After her tournament-saving heroics for Switzerland against Russia, goalkeeper Pascale Küffer has vowed to be ready for an "even harder" task on Wednesday against Germany.

Switzerland goalkeeper Pascale Küffer shone in her side's 0-0 draw with Russia
Switzerland goalkeeper Pascale Küffer shone in her side's 0-0 draw with Russia ©Sportsfile

"An unbelievable feeling" was Pascale Küffer's reaction after a match-saving performance guided Switzerland into the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-finals. The goalkeeper is under no illusions about Wednesday's encounter in Imola, however, warning, "it will be even harder against Germany."

Küffer went into the final Group A match knowing she would need to be at her best in order to repel a Russia side requiring victory to reach the last four at Switzerland's expense. The FC Schlieren goalkeeper fulfilled her side of the bargain with a string of late saves that even her own coach, Yannick Schwery, admitted "saved us".

Switzerland played the ball around intelligently in the first half but found themselves increasingly on the back foot as Russia ratcheted up the pressure in the final 20 minutes, winning six corners and firing off nine goalbound shots. But Küffer held firm, denying Anna Chovolyaga in a one-on-one and saving her best for last by pawing a ferocious Ksenia Veselukha free-kick over the bar in added time.

"We knew it would be a real battle out there because we had studied Russia and the way they play and we knew they would hit us with long balls which could cause us problems," she told UEFA.com. "We were prepared."

At times Küffer cut a lonely figure as Russia won yet another free-kick that she would have to keep out, or a corner that would test her judgment and handling skills, but the 18-year-old refused to waiver. "You can feel a little bit lost at times," she admitted, "but I had to keep faith in my defence and luckily we all managed to contain the Russian onslaught in the end; we're delighted we did.

"It's my job to be ready at all times and remain focused until the very last minute but it's fantastic afterwards to know you've played well and to get the recognition from the players and supporters was unbelievable. It can be nerve-wracking at times and there are difficult moments when shots and crosses are raining in and you think 'What if?' But you only really think about all that afterwards because at the time you're consumed by what you have to do next."

If Russia were worthy opponents, Switzerland's next adversaries are likely to pose an even greater threat. Having won all three of their Group B games in what is widely considered the tougher of the two sections, Maren Meinart's Germany are tournament favourites. But Küffer knows what lies in store and is ready for another test of her resolve.

"It'll be an even harder match against Germany. They will put even more pressure on us because they're a quality side who, compared to Russia, pass the ball around a lot more and very quickly. I've no doubts we'll have to suffer a lot more against them. We've reached our minimum target which was to qualify for the [FIFA U-20 Women's] World Cup but we're not thinking about partying just yet. We're tired but happy, and on Wednesday we'll be ready to push on."