Switzerland’s appearances at FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups™ so far have not gone according to plan. At the 2006 finals in Russia, they were eliminated at the group stage following three defeats in which they conceded 14 goals and scored just two. Things got even worse four years later when neighbours Germany hosted the tournament, as they returned home with a minus-11 goal difference, having failed to score or collect a single point. But that could all be about to change.
“We had players who had a double load, who had played in the World Cup qualifiers with the senior team, which went on for a quite a while,” head coach Yannick Schwery said of the 2010 disappointment in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “That meant we barely had a week to prepare. When you compare that to some of the other teams, who were together for several weeks, the difference is huge. We’ve fixed that this year and our preparations will be a lot better this time.”
The upcoming tournament in Japan in just under three months presents an opportunity to make amends. “We’ll give everything to do better this year and give a good account of Swiss women’s football,” continued Schwery. “We’ll do our best in Japan!”
Women’s football on the up in Switzerland
The objectives for the competition in the women's world champions’ own back yard are clear: score goals, pick up points and maybe even record a first ever FIFA World Cup victory. While the results from their two most recent finals were certainly disappointing, there is evidence that the women’s game in Switzerland is progressing. The Swiss side reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s U-19 European Championships in 2009 and 2011, earning their place at this year’s FIFA World Cup.
“We try to play the game well and want to play attractive football. We aim to be very solid in defence and want to see if we can score on the counter-attack or from a set-piece,” added Schwery. “But we won’t go with the aim of simply trying not to concede.”
That may be easier said than done after coming up short against some of tournament’s strongest sides earlier this year. In mid-February a 10-0 defeat against the USA, Schwery’s favourites to win the title, was a bitter pill to swallow, as were subsequent losses to Germany and Norway (5-0 each time). In Japan, they must also factor in the presence of very good Asian teams.
However, in guiding Switzerland to previously unreached heights since taking charge of the side in 2008, Schwery’s success is undisputed. The fact that his charges missed out on qualifying for the UEFA U-19 European Championships just four weeks ago is therefore all the more disappointing. “We can defend but we’re just not dangerous enough up front,” said Schwery.
In Japan, Switzerland’s hopes will rest with Chantal Fimian and Lia Waltli, who have already appeared for the senior team and will be expected to pull the strings in midfield. “Fimian was injured for a long time and is coming back to fitness now. They’re our best players, but they’ve missed a lot of games in the past,” said Schwery. “When they’re both back then there’ll be more competition for places. We also have a very good U-17 team and a few of them could still step up into the World Cup squad.”
The very fact that increasing numbers of talented youngsters are coming through the ranks illustrates just how much women’s football is developing in Switzerland. Coaches like Schwery, who have constant contact with the players, have a huge part to play in that. Once a week, Schwery’s protégés have to send him their training programs.
“We’ve reached a good level, but to go from ‘good’ to ‘very good’ isn’t easy. A lot more work needs to be done, but we’ve already taken a big step in the right direction,” the coach said. “We get invited to play in international tournaments. We can’t afford to relax and need to keep working as we have been. The appointment of Martina Voss-Tecklenburg as coach of the senior side gives us new impulse too.”
With everything in place for a brighter future, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan could be the springboard to bigger and better things.