Spain and Switzerland on verge of WU17 glory
Saturday’s UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship final in Reykjavik brings together the only two unbeaten teams in the Icelandic tournament – Group A winners Spain and Group B counterparts Switzerland.
The Iberian country may have four previous finals and two championship triumphs on their CV, but the Swiss outfit can approach their first showpiece occasion with confidence after scoring last-minute winners against France and Germany in their last two matches.
UEFA.com caught up with the respective coaches, Pedro López and Monica Di Fonzo, to find out what makes both sides tick.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your philosophy as a coach?
Monica Di Fonzo: I like quick and attacking football, also to build up play from the back, but above all character and a good mentality. So attacking play and character. I was a striker, therefore am naturally a bit more offensive, but you can’t ignore the defensive side of the game because that’s the foundation.
Pedro López: We like technical football that develops the player both as an individual and as part of the group; attractive football that uses the ball well and that creates one-on-one situations; to keep the ball, produce good moves and have an end product as well. We like to take the initiative.
UEFA.com: What are the defining qualities or characteristics of your team?
Di Fonzo: I think we’ve shown in all our matches, in both the qualifying and main rounds and here in Iceland, that we play with the right character and we play to win; we attack; we score goals and quite a lot of them. All those things together have combined to take us where we are now.
López: The values would be technical qualities and that the girls play with their hearts.
UEFA.com: Has there been one key moment or turning point on the way to the final?
Di Fonzo: There have been so many important moments. In the qualifying round in Hungary, against Portugal, we scored an 81st-minute winner on the break which showed even then the spirit in the team. Then, in the elite round we had to fight for qualification in our last match against Finland. We could have gone out but ended up winning 4-0. Then, here at the finals, there have been lots of moments but the most important was the France game. We went from being 1-0 down with 13 minutes to go and heading out of the competition, to winning 2-1 and topping the group. That showed how much the girls wanted it – and want to take home the trophy.
López: There wouldn’t be just one moment – we’re a team that’s been consistently good all campaign and that’s kept growing and achieving targets along the way. We’ve followed our ambition game after game, so it’s not just been one key moment.
UEFA.com: How would you say your squad has developed during this Women’s Under-17 campaign?
Di Fonzo: I think we were maybe a bit nervous to begin with. But we’ve grown, we’ve become stronger and more self-confident in our play. Because the opposition has been so much tougher than in qualifying, our football and our mentality has had to improve in order for us to progress.
López: Throughout our campaign, competing against top teams, our rivals have helped to improve us. Every single game here has been tough and we’ve had to develop and to grow throughout the tournament. This environment has definitely made us a better and stronger team – and improved the girls individually by virtue of facing such difficult opponents. The youngest girls in the group have the ability, it’s just a case of having a coach willing to pick them. When you have the talent, it’s like a flower that needs watering but that continues to grow.
UEFA.com: Apart from the victory, what are you hoping for from Saturday’s final?
Di Fonzo: We shouldn’t change what we’ve been doing in reaching the final. We’ll make a couple of alterations to help us against Spain but I think if the team play as they have been until now, with the same spirit and the same quality we’ve displayed, we can win it.
López: I want them to enjoy it and express all the footballing talent they have within themselves – to show the whole of Europe what they can do. And whether the result goes for us or not, I’d like them to feel satisfied with what they’ve achieved at this championship.