Vanessa Buerki was Switzerland's outstanding figure in their opening game at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006. Yet in spite of a skilful and industrious performance that included two well-taken goals, the Bayern Munich striker could not prevent her side from slumping to a 4-2 defeat to Mexico on their debut in the competition.
When FIFA.com caught up with the player yesterday, she spoke openly about her team's performance, saying: "I'm very disappointed with the first game, as we can play so much better. We felt good out there on the pitch, but we didn't function well and made elementary mistakes."
In Friday's opening Group C game, the Helvetians went ahead on 12 minutes, conceded an equaliser shortly afterwards and found themselves two goals down by half-time. Although the Swiss No. 7 managed to reduce her team's arrears in the second half, a combination of inspired goalkeeping and blistering counter-attacks from the Mexicans consigned the European debutantes to defeat.
"I feel very proud of my two goals," Buerki reflected, "especially as I had the honour of scoring my country's first ever goal at a World Championship. At the same time I'm a bit disappointed, because in the end those goals counted for nothing."
Nonetheless, morale in the Swiss camp remains high. The squad know that, in spite of their opening day slip-up, they're still in with a chance, even if it now means getting past two major obstacles: Korea DPR and defending champions Germany . Buerki is very clear about what improvements have to be made: "We need to be more aggressive and much more focused, and we also need to be more direct and precise in our passing."
On the move
The quality of Buerki's performances for former club FFC Zuchwil 05 so impressed the national team coach that the talented striker was made captain of the Swiss side that qualified for Russia 2006 last year. Since then, the 20-year-old has gone from strength to strength and this season was voted Player of the Year in her homeland.
"It was a huge honour to be chosen," she said, "but that accolade was due in no small part to the great bunch of players I had around me. I'm very grateful to all my team-mates for their help."
The player's exploits last season brought her to the attention of Germany's biggest clubs, and this summer Vanessa completed what for many in the game would be a dream move by signing for Bayern. "In the beginning I wasn't sure if moving to Germany was the right option or not, but now I'm very happy," she said, smiling. "I don't regret my decision for a second."
Since moving to the Bavarian capital this summer, the player has been sharing an apartment with senior German international Bianca Rech and slowly adapting to the demands of her new life. She said: "There is a huge difference between the women's game in Germany and Switzerland; the physical aspect is much more important in Germany, there is a lot more training and the football is faster and tougher."
Though it is a year now since Buerki enjoyed a break from the game, she happily insists that football is the only thing on her mind. The player also tells us that she shares her team-mates' determination "not just to take part in this World Championship , but also to achieve something here".