Switzerland rate as the surprise package of qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™ after topping Group 6 with a fine record of seven wins and just one defeat. Midfielder Martina Moser’s contribution to that success included a hat-trick in her country’s 8-0 victory over Kazakhstan in their final qualifier. The 24-year-old, who earned her first senior cap in August 2005, joined German Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg in July this year.
In the battle for one of the sought-after tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Swiss now face a daunting task against England, European championship runners-up in 2009. Ahead of the showdown with Kelly Smith and Co, FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Moser about the play-off, and developments in women’s football in Switzerland.
Switzerland are poised to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals for the first time. How fired up are you for the play-off against England?
We’re all extremely fired up, because we’re closer than we’ve ever been before. We’ve never finished qualifying top of our group, we’ve tended to be down near the bottom somewhere. On the one hand, it’s a nice surprise, but on the other, we worked really hard for this. We’re looking forward to the games and we’ll give it everything we have. We’re determined to make it to the Women’s World Cup.
How much do you know about your opponents?
I’ve personally played England twice, once at U-19 level and once with the senior side. We drew 2-2 with them at the Cyprus Cup, although you can’t draw any conclusions from that as it was a warm-up tournament. Both teams were trying out a few players, and neither side was at full strength. We know the English will always fight all the way, and that they favour a long-ball game. They have some outstanding individuals, Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey for example. But we have no reason to be scared. We have a good blend of talented youngsters and experienced players.
England are ninth in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, with Switzerland 26th, so it’ll surely be an uphill task.
We’re the "worst" team, if you will, to qualify for the play-offs, so we were always going to meet a big name in a seeded draw. All our potential opponents are top teams who have bags of experience in major tournaments. As newcomers, we were never going to be favourites, but we have huge potential, so anything can happen. Why shouldn’t we achieve the impossible?
Switzerland lost only once in FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying, but how is your current form on the eve of the meeting with England?
We’re in good shape at the moment. All the players are back in domestic league action, so our fitness is good and we’re highly motivated. It’s not like we’re at the end of the season, we’re all fresh and still buzzing from beating Kazakhstan 8-0. If we play to our potential in both legs of the play-off, we have a very good chance.
Which players could tip the tie in Switzerland’s favour and earn you a maiden appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals?
We’re a very good unit and our team spirit is strong. Ramona Bachmann and Lara Dickenmann are our two best players, and both are capable of winning a game on their own. But every player’s important to us, and we have quality in every position.
What’s your role in the team?
I’m one of the more experienced members of the team. I’m happy to take responsibility and help shape the tactical approach. We have plenty of room to improve the actual numbers of women playing football in Switzerland, so we’re picking the team from a relatively small pool of decent players. It means a lot rests on the shoulders of our more experienced players. We always have to put in a huge amount of hard work, but people have become a lot more aware of the national team recently, and that’s a good feeling.
How important is coach Beatrice von Siebenthal to you?
I’ve known her for a long time now. She basically discovered me. As a 15-year-old, she picked me for her U-19 squad. She obviously had faith in me, because I played. I joined the senior squad in 2005 and I’ve basically been a regular since then. I sense she really believes in me, but she knows all her players very well indeed.
How would you assess the development of women’s football in Switzerland?
The women’s game has come on a very long way, especially since the setting up of a national academy. The league’s improved too. Some of the clubs have amalgamated with the bigger men’s clubs – FC Zurich, Grasshoppers Zurich or BSC Young Boys for example. The women there benefit hugely from the facilities and the professional working environment. A number of our internationals have chosen to go abroad. Obviously, you can’t compare Switzerland with Germany, but we’re on the right track.
You’ve spent the last three seasons in the German Bundesliga. Are you enjoying it?
I like it a lot. The standards are higher, the structures are more professional, and you’re testing yourself against world-class players. The German FA and the media are promoting the Bundesliga heavily right now in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup in 2011. There’s a real sense of anticipation for the event. Playing here is just terrific.
Finally, what are your personal targets for this season?
I’d like to help VfL Wolfsburg finish in the top four this season and also make it to the cup final. And obviously, I want us to qualify for the Women’s World Cup 2011.