2015 WWC: Interview With Vera Pauw

1 Jul

776022_w2Keeping with the female coach theme, FIFA Weekly interview South African head coach Vera Pauw in early June. Pauw previously headed the Scottish WNT (1998-2004), Netherlands WNT (2004-2010), Russian WNT (2011-2013). She also played for the Netherlands WNT, earning 89 caps during her career.

She is the first woman to have the highest trainer degree in Dutch football.

Who is going to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™? Will there be surprises in Canada?
Vera Pauw: It’s a very difficult one to predict, of course. You have the sides we know well like Japan, Germany, France, and the USA, but with the expansion of the World Cup to 24 teams there can be many changes. For example, there are now eight European teams and Europe is the big force in women’s football. Canada have home advantage, which hopefully takes them through the group phase.

Are Canada among the favourites?
They’ll be really happy to survive the group stage, but after that it will be very difficult for them. It means there is really now a much more competitive field and a lot of teams with a legitimate chance to go to the second round. And of course, we all know that once you get to the knockout stages, with a bit of luck, before you know it… you can find yourself in the final!”

So what are you expecting to happen?
It is much less predictable which will make this tournament very interesting and it will also bring a lot more variety into the play. We used to have same teams dominating there at the top and so it was a bit predictable how the play would unfold. I’m very curious to see how it will develop now.

Is the gap between the Europeans and the North Americans, and the rest of the women’s football world, beginning to close and will we see evidence of that at this tournament?
Nigeria now have 12 players in the top women’s leagues in Europe and the US and definitely can take a big step up. They can close the gap. The last FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011 was such a huge success in terms of audience, both in the stadiums and also on TV.

Can Canada come close?
Canada will definitely have full stadiums from what I’ve heard they have some matches sold out already. The thing about Germany is they have a historical football public and we’ll see whether Canada can have the same. In terms of TV the audience has grown, there are more cameras, better productions … everything has improved and grown since 2011. It will definitely be as successful as Germany but the reaction in the stands might be different because in Canada there will be a lot of people who are not regular football supporters and who might react differently.

How much of a change has there been for women’s football since you started out as player more than two decades ago?
Incomparable, incomparable. If you look at my own country, Holland, I played about five international games a year, always against the same opponents. In the first European Championships there were only four teams who played just a semi-final and final. It has grown to a full, top level of sport environment in which our players, after we set up a Premier League connected to men’s football in Holland, are now all professional. There are nine who have a chance to play abroad and they are all able to just concentrate on their game.

How does that differ from the past?
In my day, we had to try and find time off work to train. I hope the players of today realise what a big fight the generations before them had to help get them what they have now. I don’t get the feeling many of the current players appreciate that. But it is unbelievable. Without FIFA the game would not have grown like it has.

The team that you coach now, South Africa, came so close to a first-ever qualification, only for it to slip away at the last hurdle. How difficult will that make it for you to watch the Women’s World Cup in Canada?
Everyday the pain is getting bigger! We really should have been there, we deserved to be there. We had it in our own hands. The pain will not go away for the rest of my life.

– hopechaser

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