Lehmann: Unbelievable Alexia deserves The Best

  • Alisha Lehmann opines on who deserves to win The Best awards

  • She identifies two players as the future of women’s and men’s football

  • The youngster discusses Switzerland’s FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying chances

The weight of the world burdened her then 21-year-old shoulders. Alisha Lehmann walked from the centre-circle in Czech Republic with Switzerland having missed their first two penalties in a shootout for a place at UEFA Women’s EURO England 2022. If she missed, she knew, they were effectively out. She didn’t. It initiated an incredible comeback that saw the Swiss quality.

Lehmann is relishing the opportunity to represent her country at her first major senior tournament, and she also wants to book a ticket to another in 2022. Switzerland have a 100-per-cent record in FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand™ qualifying, three points clear of Italy in Europe’s Group G. The Aston Villa forward discusses that target, as well as some other prizes: those on offer at The Best FIFA Football Awards™, which will be streamed live on Monday, 17 January.

FIFA: Alisha, who do you think deserves The Best FIFA Women’s Player award?

Alisha Lehmann: The award for The Best [FIFA] Women’s Player should go to Alexia from Barcelona, because I think she is an unbelievable player. She is so good on the ball. I think it makes people happy watching her because she has really good quality and is just a sick player. For me, she is just the best player and I think she deserves it a lot – a real lot.

Which youngster could you envisage lifting The Best FIFA Women’s Player in the future?

I think Lauren James could be a future winner – she has so much potential. She is still so young. I would say she’s one of the best footballers I’ve ever seen play. Her technique is boy-like. She actually plays like a man, she is so strong. It’s so hard to take her off the ball as she protects it with her body so well. She scores goals. She has so much potential and I would say we have to really keep an eye on her.

Could you win the award in the future and, if so, what would it mean to you?

If I was to win an award like that, of course, it would be a memory for life. It’s always special to win something when you think back to how hard you worked for it. I think in football, anything can happen and things can change so quickly. So, winning this award would give you the feeling of having accomplished something big. It would be a huge achievement and would mean the world to me.

The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper... who should it be?

For me, [Ann-Katrin] Berger. In Germany, we say ‘Berger’ but the English people say ‘Burger’. (laughs). I think she’s unbelievable. It’s so difficult to play against her. I had a lot of chances against her, so I know how difficult it is. She’s good on the ball and with her hands, so I think she deserves it.

What about The Best FIFA Women’s Coach?

I think the award should go to Emma Hayes because I think she made the Chelsea team really strong. They’re not only good in the league here in England, but they also compete in Europe in the [UEFA Women’s] Champions League. And they have amazing players. I think she’s a really good coach.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominated football for so long but are approaching the end of their careers. Who do you foresee filling their void?

If Messi and Ronaldo retire, I would say [Kylian] Mbappe because I think he has so much potential. He’s an amazing player. He’s so quick, he has quality that a lot of players don’t have. So I think Mbappe will be the next Messi or Ronaldo.

Moving on to the national team, Swtizerland have taken 18 points from a possible 18 in FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ qualifying and are three points clear of second-placed Italy…

Six wins from six games is, of course, a good start, but there are more games to come and we have to focus on them. We can’t say now that we’ve done it already, you know? We need to push on and and qualify for the World Cup. We are very excited to finish the qualifiers We’ve grown so much together as a team in the last couple of weeks and months. We want more.

How exciting would it be to be at Australia and New Zealand 2023?

It’s so exciting to play at a World Cup or a [UEFA] EURO. For me personally, I’ve never played in one, only at youth level, so I can’t wait. I hope we qualify and show what Switzerland are all about.

What can Switzerland achieve in the forthcoming years?

We have a lot of good, young players in the Swiss national team. We have a good future and we’ve grown together so much in the last two years. We have a good coach, we have good facilities. Switzerland is a good country in general, right? So, yeah, I think we can achieve a lot and we will show that in the next few years. How far can we go? It’s hard to say. Before every competition, we talk about how far we want to go and what we want to achieve. But I think it’s more important to focus on the group stage and then go from there. In this way I think you achieve more, because if you say, ‘We’re going to win the World Cup’, sometimes it’s not realistic, you know? But in every World Cup or EURO, anything can happen. The [Switzerland] men’s team beat France at the EURO. No-one would have expected that, but it was amazing. My French friends were really disappointed and I was really happy. Anything can happen in the future so we need to focus on the moment.

Before the World Cup there’s the UEFA Women’s EURO in England. Switzerland have been placed in a tough group alongside Sweden, the Netherlands and Russia. How do you rate your chances?

I think we’ve got quite a tough group, but I think we always have a chance because we’re a team, we can we games. I think we showed this in the qualifiers for the World Cup. So, we’ll take it game by game, play to our strengths and see what we can do.

The EURO will take place in England, where you play your club football for Aston Villa. Do you think that gives you an advantage?

For me it will be really special because it’s my first season in England now. It will be a bit like a home EURO. And, of course, it helps me a lot because I feel at home here. I like all the English people, I like to play here so much, and that’s why I’m really excited.

2021 was quite a strange year for everyone around the world. As we head into 2022, what do you want from your football?

I want to grow my game in 2022. I’m working a lot on my weaknesses. I want to become a better player. I want to grow mentally and, obviously, work hard and be the best version of myself.