On Monday, Switzerland face a baptism of fire in their major tournament debut as they take on holders Japan to open their FIFA Women's World Cup campaign in Canada.
Switzerland had never even qualified for a UEFA Women's EURO before, but under German coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg they were the first European team to book their place in these global finals from a tough group containing Denmark and Iceland. Voss-Tecklenburg, who won four European titles with Germany as a player and coached FCR 2001 Duisburg to 2009 UEFA Women's Cup glory, spoke to UEFA.com about making the World Cup and their hopes there.
On qualifying ...
It's difficult to put it into words – there were a lot of emotional moments in the matches and with the results. And then, when the moment came where we had qualified, we weren't actually on the pitch, we were sitting together watching the Denmark-Iceland game which finished in a draw – at that moment it was clear we had qualified for the first time. A lot of emotions then came out.
But it was the reward for the development of our team, and the reward for training hard and giving up a lot of other things. We are very much looking forward to it, and we will enjoy every single moment there.
On what it means for Switzerland ...
I think it means a lot. This was the right moment for Switzerland to make it. We had already been close to making it to the World Cup in Germany in 2011 – and we expect women's football to continue to grow as a result of this World Cup. You can see that there are more and more interview requests for me and my players, as people know that Switzerland now has a successful women's national team.
I expect this will encourage more and more girls to play football, and we will get support for players who are still working full-time, making it easier for them to combine their job or studies with football. So I think we have taken a very important step in the development of Swiss women's football.
On players joining clubs outside Switzerland ...
That step was extremely important. The whole process over the last three years has shown that the team wants to develop further, with a lot of players leaving their comfort zone – like Noëlle Maritz who transferred to Wolfsburg aged 17, or Lia Wälti who went to Potsdam at 18 and became captain there after two years. All the players who moved abroad are playing regularly, they have all developed further and have trained and played at a very high level. The intensity has changed, and so the whole team has developed.
On if Switzerland can make the quarter-finals ...
That is not a fantasy, plus we are also in the 'easier' half of the draw with our group. We want to come at least second in our group – that is our first goal. Japan are favourites in our group, obviously, but we would then play the second-placed team from Group A, something that gives us a chance.
I hope Canada can come first in their group, which means we would face teams like China, the Netherlands or New Zealand, all teams who play at the same level as us. So that is our plan in a way, but whether it all happens like that depends mainly on us and our performances. I hope we can cope with the pressure. It's our first time at a World Cup, we haven't had that experience yet, but I have a good feeling about it.
On opening against holders Japan ...
I really like it this way, because we can start the tournament with a highlight, playing against the defending world champions. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I'm sure we will be fresh and can give a good performance, and there's also the advantage that we can see what condition Cameroon and Ecuador are in [before we play them]. I know Japan pretty well, the other teams not so well. So I think it is good like this.
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