Lavrentiev: Russia are in the toughest group

The countdown has begun! Running from 10-28 July, the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 is soon to get underway in Sweden and, for all the teams working tirelessly ahead of the big kick-off, the sense of excitement is palpable. Russia coach Sergey Lavrentiev, for one, cannot wait for the showcase event to begin.

“My expectations for the tournament are high,” he told FIFA.com. “The EURO is a fantastic forum for Europe’s best. I’m really happy that Russia are part of the competition.”

At the last edition of the finals in 2009, Russia fell at the group stage following three defeats to Sweden, Italy and England. This time around, France, Spain and England once more lie in wait.

“Trying to predict the outcome is a thankless task – we’ll just try to compete to the best of our ability in each game,” Lavrentiev said. “We’re in the strongest group against superb opposition. It’s going to be tough. I’m sure there will be some exciting battles in each group. I know it sounds like a cliché, but there are no weak teams in the competition.”

We’re in the strongest group against superb opposition. It’s going to be tough.
Sergey Lavrentiev

In Lavrentiev’s view, the Women’s EURO winner will not just be the side that is best-prepared physically, psychologically and tactically, but that also has the greatest will to win: “I’m aware that we’re not one of the favourites, but who knows what could happen? We really want to spring a surprise.”

Canadian dream
Lavrentiev also has one eye on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, and he expects this summer’s continental competition to provide a good indication of where his side stand prior to the start of qualifying in September.

“Of course, we have already started thinking about it,” he said. “Looking at the average age of our players, we’re thinking not only about the EURO, but further ahead too. Right now, we’ve got players on board who will also be ready to meet the challenges of the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.”

Having failed to make it to last two FIFA Women’s World Cups, securing a berth for the 2015 edition would represent a huge success for Russia. They have a difficult path ahead to make that happen, however, thanks to being drawn in a qualifying group alongside Germany, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia.

“In my opinion, Germany – who are multiple world and European champions – are the clear favourites in our group, but that’s just a first impression as anything is possible,” said the coach. “We will try to find out as much as possible about the Irish, as they’re an unknown quantity to me.

“We're on a level playing field with Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia. We still have enough time to prepare though and we’ll gain some invaluable experience at the EURO, because we’re up against such high-calibre opposition.”

Whether Lavrentiev will be the one to lead his charges on the road to Canada, however, remains to be seen. “My contract runs until the end of the European Championship, and there are still questions about whether or not it will be extended,” he said. “I have a lot of hopes and dreams [for Russia]. Will I be able to make them come true? Only time will tell.”

A strong showing in Sweden would certainly not do his job prospects any harm.