At 1.76m, Nilla Fischer is a stand-out figure on the football pitch. But it is for her extraordinary footballing ability, rather than her platinum blonde undercut, that the VfL Wolfsburg and Sweden defensive linchpin has made a name for herself. Her talent really came to the fore at last summer's UEFA European Women's Championship, at the end of which Fischer was awarded the adidas Silver Boot for her performances. The Swede was also one of ten candidates nominated for the 2013 FIFA Women's Player of the Year award.
"The European Championship was my best tournament so far. Last year was a fantastic year for me, at club level in Sweden and Germany too," explained Fischer in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, before adding. "I was at peak fitness and had a great tournament, scoring three goals. I was very happy. But I hope that my performances can get even better."
The defensive midfielder will once again have the opportunity to shine for the Damlandslaget at next month's Algarve Cup (5-12 March 2014), but the build-up to the tournament in Portugal has not gone entirely to plan, the Swedes recently suffering a damaging 3-0 friendly loss to France.
The Algarve Cup: Paving the way for World Cup qualification
"Of course, we could just say that it's a friendly match and that it doesn't count for anything. But it's still important to win our friendlies. France were simply better than us," said Fischer of the defeat. "We've got to be a lot tougher at the Algarve Cup and perform better defensively. Granted, a lot of our first-team players were missing, but we should have still performed better. I'm happy that we have the Algarve Cup on the horizon, which will gives us the chance to get the team together again. We have three very difficult matches coming up and we'll need to play well if we are to have a chance of winning them."
With Denmark, USA and Japan lying in wait, Sweden’s task is not an easy one. But Fischer is convinced that difficult games such as these that will stand the Swedish national team in good stead when it comes to qualifying for the FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Canada, with Pia Sundhage's team currently occupying second place in Group 4 behind Scotland.
"Our objective is to win all of our matches so that we qualify for the World Cup because we absolutely have to be there", said Fischer. Such are the standards set by Sweden’s head coach. "On paper we should be fine, but you never know what’s going to happen until you get out onto the pitch."
The clash of the summer
Sweden face Scotland on 14 June in what will be a fiercely contested battle for World Cup qualification, and it is a game that neither side can afford to lose. "Even though this match is still quite far off, it's good to have these three really tough matches coming up in the Algarve Cup. It gives us the opportunity to spend more time together." Fischer's statement shows the importance of the competition soon to take place in Portugal's southernmost region.
"We need to perform well. But it’s going to be very difficult. Scotland have a Swedish coach [Anna Signeul]. She is familiar with our style of play and she has done a very good job so far. Hopefully we’ll be able to beat her when the time comes."
But until Fischer links up with the national team once again, her attention remains fully focused on her club duties with VfL Wolfsburg. The Swede only made the switch from Linkopings in her homeland to the German club in the summer, but has quickly cemented her place in the side.
"I wanted to be involved in the big matches, clashes like the one with Frankfurt on Saturday. And I want to play in one or two more Champions League campaigns before I get too old," she explained, before outlining her targets for 2014. "I want to win the two titles that are still up for grabs with Wolfsburg. My personal objectives are to play in every single game and to be one of the top players at Wolfsburg and for the Swedish national team."