This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Expert Network, a cooperation between some of the top media organizations from the 16 countries that have qualified. theguardian.com is streaming daily previews from two countries ahead of the tournament which begins on July 6.
“I’m tired as a dog but we fought for each other. I don’t care how we won, we’re going to the Euros. The words were those of Lia Wälti, speaking a few moments after Switzerland beat the Czech Republic on penalties in April 2021 to qualify for this summer’s tournament. To make matters worse, the Swiss missed their first two, through Malin Gut and Coumba Sow, but reinforced keeper Gaëlle Thalmann to save two penalties while Czech midfielder Katerina Svitkova hit the bar.
Qualification was so important for Switzerland and their Danish coach, Nils Nielsen. Having missed the 2019 World Cup, being absent again would have meant the team would have fallen even further behind the top teams. And for the Swiss federation, it is important that the women’s team, like the men’s team, qualifies for the big tournaments. The men have only missed one since 2004; women have some catching up to do in terms of consistency.
It was Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the German who led Switzerland from 2012 to 2018, who changed the mentality of the women’s side in the country. She implemented a whole new structure when she took office, including young talent programs. This allowed Switzerland to qualify for their first final, the World Cup in Canada in 2015, and they went on to reach Euro 2017. She is now the coach of Germany.
Several players have been rewarded with big moves abroad and by 2017 stars such as Lara Dickenmann and Ramona Bachmann had become known to the general Swiss public. Before the Voss-Tecklenburg era, games were watched by only a handful of fans.
Switzerland go to England more hoping than expecting, but Nielsen knows he can count on his players to give their all. “It’s an incredible group of players,” he said after that dramatic night in Thun. “They have so much character, it’s great to work with them.”