Jarmo Matikainen talks to UEFA.com about his role transforming the women's game in Wales and how they are preparing to make the most of hosting a first UEFA final tournament.
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Jarmo Matikainen has quietly transformed women's football in Wales since arriving in October 2010 yet despite positive steps he says there is much more to do. The Finn leads the senior and Under-17 setups but here he talks about his other role, as U19 boss, and about preparations for 2013 when the country hosts its first final tournament: the UEFA European Women's U19 Championship.
It is, he says, a big challenge though he insists "we are going to make the most of it". First, however, he discusses this season's second qualifying round in March and April – and aspirations of going a step further than 12 months ago when Belgium pipped Wales to the best runners-up spot by a solitary goal.
UEFA.com: You will face England, Austria and Finland in Group 6 of the women's U19 second qualifying round. How big a challenge is it for a country like Wales to reach the finals?
Jarmo Matikainen: With the U19s and the U17s we are ranked around 20th [according to UEFA coefficients] – it's difficult to reach even the second round. It's difficult with the U19s but it is where we should be. We need to reach the second stage, to secure the tough, competitive games for the players. We have to make sure the girls have international exposure because there is no [substitute] for that. These games are so important.
UEFA.com: You will not have to qualify in 2012/13 as Wales will host the final tournament. Do you expect the women's game in Wales to flourish as a result?
Matikainen: I learned we had been granted the tournament after only a few weeks in the job – it was a nice surprise. It is a great opportunity, 2013 – we are really looking forward to it. I'm absolutely certain we are going to host a good tournament. But obviously the legacy is so important, that we make the most of it for the long term for Welsh football.
I saw it happen in Finland when we hosted the women's U19s in 2004. We then qualified in 2005 and [by reaching the last four] went all the way to the U-20 World Cup – it has had a great impact on the development of the women's game.
It is a big challenge, a big opportunity, and we are going to make the most of it.
UEFA.com: What are the immediate challenges for the women's game in Wales?
Matikainen: We have a lot of work to do in Wales [regarding] structure. First of all we need to look into the overall structure of women's football, how it is administrated. I'm delighted the competition [for A team places] is getting better. We're far from where we should be but we're heading in the right direction. It is a work in progress with the senior team and the youth setup, but I have always loved working with that – to work with the young players and try to take them forward.