Switzerland take on the Netherlands in the play-off final
Two-legged tie Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's final games as Switzerland coach
She will become Germany coach upon conclusion of the France 2019 qualifiers
The play-off final between Switzerland and the Netherlands to decide the last European ticket to the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ is a final showdown in every sense of the word – not only for the two teams, but also for Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. On 9 and 13 November, she will take charge of her last games as Switzerland coach before taking on the same role at the German Football Association (DFB).
The 125-time Germany international was appointed Switzerland boss in February 2012 and steered the team to a maiden Women's World Cup appearance (Canada 2015), a first-ever UEFA Women's European Championship qualification (Netherlands 2017), as well as a first international title (2017 Cyprus Cup).
FIFA.com spoke exclusively with Voss-Tecklenburg about the upcoming play-off matches, her time in Switzerland and the new challenge on the horizon.
FIFA.com: In the play-off final, you face a tough opponent in reigning European champions the Netherlands. What sort of game are you expecting? Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: If the European champions are in the play-offs, then they have to be the favourites. On top of that, we've got a couple of problems to contend with, such as the serious injury sustained by Lara Dickenmann, while Ramona Bachmann will be suspended for the first match.
I'm expecting the Netherlands, who are a strong attacking team, to try and put themselves in a good position at home in order to give themselves some breathing room in the return leg in Switzerland. We'll try to cope with that at the sold-out stadium in Utrecht and want to lay the foundation to give ourselves a chance in the second leg. The pressure is on the Netherlands and not necessarily on us, which might suit us. We have nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
Do you prepare for games like this in a different way, especially given Dickenmann's absence? You can't replace someone like Lara – as a person first and foremost, but also in sporting terms. She was in fantastic form and played in central midfield for us recently. We changed her role and she became even more important to us. Her injury has shown us that we need to pull even closer together now. Hopefully during the game, we'll all have in the back of our minds that we need to go that extra step for Lara. We want to try and make the dream of reaching a World Cup in the country where she played for six years come true. That's the mentality I want us to have to try and get something from the game. We shouldn't be afraid just because we don't have Lara and Ramona in the first match; we need to show that our young players are ready to go beyond their limits and put everything on the line. At the end of the day, we'll see where that leaves us.
What would it mean to you to end your role with Switzerland by helping the team qualify for the Women's World Cup? I view it as what it would mean for Switzerland. Participating at a major tournament is very special in a country, where they can't take something like that for granted. It triggers a positive reaction for women's football. We still need that in Switzerland, in order to stabilise the structures, draw attention to ourselves and to open the door for young women players. It's also something we need if we want to establish Swiss women's football at the top of the European game. In that sense, it would be incredibly important. For me, it would be a great way to sign off, but I won't judge my time here on whether we qualify or not; I'll look at the bigger picture over the entire period. But I would be delighted for the country and for my players. I know what participating at a World Cup means for your career and for you as a person.
What lessons have you learned from the six years you have been Switzerland head coach? A great deal. It was my first time as a national team coach. I've grown along with my coaching staff and the team and we've participated at two major tournaments. That's developed and shaped me as a coach. I've had experiences I'd never have had as a club coach, which is obviously very important for my own personal development. I'm very grateful and feel very privileged to have had this chance here in Switzerland. It also means that I've now got a chance that is perhaps a bit bigger: that of being head coach in my homeland.
There's been a positive change in Switzerland. People have sat up and taken notice. Everybody knows there's a successful women's national team in Switzerland that plays good football. There are players who have moved out of their comfort zone. They were brave enough to go abroad at the age of 17 or 18, to sacrifice certain things, to shoulder financial losses and to stake everything on football. A lot of European clubs have become aware of Swiss players. Luana Buhler, Francesca Calo, Alisha Lehmann, Marilena Widmer and Geraldine Reuteler all moved abroad over the summer. They would never have had the chance to do so, if there wasn't an awareness of Swiss women's football, thanks to the good work we've done.
What are your fondest memories in and with Switzerland? In sporting terms, getting to the World Cup and European Championship are the highlights. The moment when we secured our qualification for the World Cup after Iceland and Denmark drew was definitely the most emotional and genuine thing I experienced in my time here. We all burst into tears, were bewildered and speechless because there was the unique and historic aspect to it all.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Germany head coach? To be honest, I haven't had time to think about that yet. Obviously, when it came to making the decision six months ago, I asked myself what it would mean for me personally, but given that my focus, my heart and attention are all here until the very last moment, I haven't had space to think about it.
I'm well aware of how big a responsibility it is and I know it'll be an incredible opportunity. I'm looking forward to getting to know the players. I already know a few of them, but there are so many new, young, exciting players I can't wait to meet. I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with people I've worked with in the past, as they have developed in the meantime. I'm also looking forward to working with the newer faces at the DFB and the whole environment, and then we'll take things step by step.