By qualifying for a sixth successive FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Norway underlined their status as one of Europe's leading teams. The Gresshoppene’s mission is now to repeat their 1995 feat by lifting the trophy in Germany next year.
Key to their chances of doing so will be Leni Larsen Kaurin. The 29-year-old midfielder has called Germany home since 2007, when she joined Turbine Potsdam, whom she helped to a league title and two German Indoor Championships before switching Frankfurt in February. She has since moved on to Wolfsburg. FIFA.com caught up with Kaurin, who helped Norway finish fourth at China 2007, to discuss her ambitions with club and country.
FIFA.com: Leni, how happy were you after securing a place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup?
Leni Larsen Kaurin: You’re obviously thrilled when your national team qualifies for the World Cup, and being a part of it in Germany will be very special.
*Next year will be your second FIFA Women’s World Cup, but how much does that mean to you personally?
*It’ll be a huge tournament for me personally. Obviously your first World Cup is always going to be very special, but Germany’s not that far away from Norway. I’ll be supported by my family, and lots of our fans will make their way to Germany. And it’ll be easier for me to communicate here than it was in China.
*Norway won their solitary FIFA Women’s World Cup back in 1995. How far can you go in Germany next year?
*Obviously a great deal depends on our group draw. Norway have never missed a World Cup or Women’s EURO, so we have a proud history. I think we have a decent chance at the World Cup. Anything can happen, and I hope we’re in with a shout of a medal. We could win gold, but everything would have to go our way for that to happen.
*How good are Norway at the moment?
*We certainly have to keep working. We need to bring new players into the squad, and we’ll have to help them settle in. But it’s looking good. We’ll have to play to our strengths. It's not the same as it is for Germany: if they lose a player for whatever reason, they just call up the next one, but we need all the players we’ve got, so it’s important no-one gets injured.
I hope we’re in with a shout of a medal. We could win gold, but everything would have to go our way for that to happen.
*How would you describe your role in the national team?
*It depends on our tactics. If we’re set up very defensively, or if we’re using a long-ball game, I tend not to start. But otherwise I’m in the starting line-up.
*Who are the candidates for the trophy next summer?
*Germany definitely, who I regard as favourites to win it. The USA are always there or thereabouts, Brazil too, and maybe England. I’m not sure that much has changed at the top of the world game. It's very tight. You need luck, and you need to peak on the day.
*You’ve mentioned the host nation, but how strong do you think Germany really are?
*Germany never vary their system. We know how Germany will play and we also know we can beat them, but they’re so very strong. If one of their players picks up an injury, they have a like-for-like replacement to hand. The German team is simply very, very good.
*What are you looking forward to most at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and what are you expecting from the tournament?
*You’re already aware something big’s coming up. There’s already a lot of publicity for the event in Wolfsburg. I’m really looking forward to the Women’s World Cup, because there’ll be such a lot going on, a really big party. Lots and lots of supporters will take part, just like it was with the men’s event. I reckon Germany could well be the best place to organise and stage a Women’s World Cup. But the priority for now is the Bundesliga, as we have some important games coming up, although it’s just great that so many people are already talking about the World Cup next year.
*You started out in the Norwegian championship, but you’ve been in Germany for a few years now. What are the differences between the leagues, and are there any similarities?
*There’s not a great difference between Norway and Germany. The culture is similar, and so is the mentality. The biggest difference is in terms of tactics. In Norway you have to be physically strong, but you need a wider range of skills in Germany. You need two feet, and you have to be able to head the football. The Norwegian method is to select players with different individual skills and construct a team from that.
*Do you enjoy playing in the Bundesliga?
*I like it a lot. The clubs are increasingly professional, and more and more fans are turning out to support their teams. There’s simply a lot more going on than in Norway.
*What are your personal goals with Wolfsburg this season?
*I hope we finish in the top four. I’d be absolutely thrilled if we managed to win something. We just have to keep playing our football. We know we’re good enough to beat the top teams, but we have to make sure we maintain our concentration, especially against the so-called weaker opponents.