"We will learn much about our opponents in Russia but more about ourselves," Sweden coach Calle Barrling told UEFA.com as his new-look team prepare to defend their title.
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Calle Barrling realised a yearning ambition when Sweden lifted the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship trophy in Antalya, Turkey this summer. Now the wily tactician is nurturing new talent as he turns his attention towards qualifying for the 2013 tournament in Wales next August.
Sweden begin the defence of their title against Slovenia on Saturday in a first qualifying round group also containing Azerbaijan and mini-tournament hosts Russia. "I don't know much about our opponents," admitted Barrling, who has been at the helm since 2005. "I know the way they play but I don't know anything about the players because we have never met them. We will respect everyone but I imagine Russia will be our toughest opponents."
After falling at the final hurdle in 2009, Sweden's age-old disciplined game yielded to a technically proficient approach, paving the way for last summer's triumph. Barrling's next objective is channelling his footballing principles through a new squad, whose challenge is to become a team, united by camaraderie and self-belief.
"We have the same policy, to pick players based on technical ability, because it was a strong factor in our success in Antalya," Barrling told UEFA.com. "We were braver with the last group of players compared to previous years and there is no reason to change. We need to become a team, rather than just a group. We have good players in Sweden but we have to work as a team to be successful."
Sweden forged a fearsome reputation in Antalya, mesmerising opponents with a sultry swathe of devastating counterattacks. However, only six players from that spellbinding team can compete in Wales including Malin Diaz, whose extra-time goal saw off Spain in the 2012 final. "It's no problem finding Malin Diaz types but, for the moment, it is more difficult finding a back four," said Barrling. "It takes time to build a defence and for them to gain an understanding with each other."
Barrling's breakthrough was reinvigorating although the 59-year-old admits he and his players are still pursuing a path of self-exploration. "Winning in Antalya gave me a lot of energy," he said. "We have learnt a lot. As a coach it's important to remain curious. The group of players are well known to us but they have to become a team. We will learn much about our opponents in Russia but more about ourselves."
The first qualifying round kicks off on Friday, with teams playing then, Sunday and Wednesday. Germany, France and England all have byes.