- Svenja Folmli made her senior team debut for Switzerland at just 17
- Attacker is one of her country’s rising stars ahead of play-off with Czech Republic
- La Nati seeking to qualify for second successive UEFA Women's EURO
Explosive dribbling, superb technique and boundless energy.
Do those qualities remind you of anyone? Perhaps Kylian Mbappe? If so, then you are on the right track. If you read some of the recent articles about Svenja Folmli, the comparison is often made between the young Swiss international and the reigning world champion currently on the books of Paris Saint-Germain. "I think I mentioned it in an interview, and since then it’s been brought up quite a lot," Folmli says with a laugh during her interview with FIFA.com.
"I see him as a role model and inspiration. Maybe I'm a little bit like him, or rather my style of play is a bit like his. Of course, he’s on a completely different level and much better than I, but it’s always good to have someone to look up to and show you how it’s done."
While her French role model is already on the highest rung of the ladder, the Swiss teenager is just setting out on her career. That said, she has already made a big impression. At just 17, Folmli made her debut for the Nati, then opened her international scoring account in her second appearance, marking her out as a star of the future. UEFA agrees with this assessment, naming the 18-year-old as one of the ten emerging players set to break through this year in the women’s game.
"On the one hand, it’s an honour to be named among UEFA’s #10PLAYERSTOWATCHIN2021, but on the other there can be a bit of pressure because you’re now one of those players. I see it more as a source of motivation, allowing others to also see my potential. That’s a huge driving force for me. Nevertheless, you have to keep performing. It's the end product of all the effort you put in every day."
Switzerland reached their maiden UEFA Women's EURO in 2017, having debuted at the FIFA Women's World Cup™ two years earlier in Canada. However, there was anguish for Nati who fell at the final hurdle on the road to France 2019 as Netherlands collected a comprehensive play-off win.
Despite positive feedback on her performances and being named in the Nati squad for the two-legged UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 play-off against Czech Republic, Folmli is not entirely satisfied. "Things could certainly be better in the league. It hasn’t exactly been my best season so far," she says. "But such low points can serve to challenge yourself again. You can grow because of them."
Blessed with a natural goal-scoring instinct, the striker currently plays for Luzern but will be moving to Bundesliga side Freiburg for the 2021/22 season. Besides football, her current location is especially important for the completion of her education. "I’ve always said that I live in Lucerne so as to keep my working and academic commutes as short as possible. In the future, I certainly hope to take the next step, and long term my dream is to play in one of the top leagues."
In the meantime, Folmli is also reaping the benefits of being part of the national team, where she has to adapt to a higher level but also gets to play alongside one of her biggest role models, PSG forward Ramona Bachmann. "I’ve already represented the national youth teams, but the Nati is obviously very different.
"Your training is more intense and you can make enormous progress," says the player. "It's always exciting to see how much quicker the pace is compared to your own league. It always takes a day or two to get used to it."
Chasing play-off redemption
For now though, there is the matter of taking the next step with the national team and securing a place at the next Women’s EURO in mid-2022. To do that, they must secure an aggregate win in their upcoming play-off, which will be no easy feat.
"We’re certainly facing a strong opponent, against whom it won’t be easy to play. Quite the opposite. They’re a great team and have shown that throughout the qualifiers. They wouldn't be in the play-offs otherwise. I still think we have a good chance of prevailing over two legs. We need to trust in our strengths as individuals and as a team." That formula, were it to succeed, would be "mega," says Folmli.
"Especially after missing out on the World Cup in France. For me as a player, it’d be a huge honour to take part in the European Championship. There’s nothing better than being able to participate in the finals of a tournament like that with the national team," she concludes.