Brøndby IF's Theresa Nielsen and Emma Madsen tell us about the run to the semi-finals, facing 1. FFC Frankfurt and their surprise when Per Nielsen became their coach.
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Eight seasons after their second European semi-final, Brøndby IF are in the UEFA Women's Champions League last four over the next two weekends.
Victory against Linköpings FC last month ended Brøndby's wait to match their runs of 2003/04 and 2006/07, when respective eventual champions Umeå IK and Arsenal LFC proved too strong. This time three-time winners 1. FFC Frankfurt await in Sunday's away first leg.
UEFA.com spoke to Theresa Nielsen and Emma Madsen about Brøndby's current continental adventure, life under new coach Per Nielsen following Peer Lisdorf's surprise winter departure, and their hope for a big crowd at next Saturday's second leg to eclipse the 3,000 plus that watched them against Linköping at their men's club stadium.
UEFA.com: What did the win against Linköping mean to the club?
Theresa Nielsen: It meant a lot. For me, it's the first time we've been in the semi-finals, and actually it's the first time for my team-mates too. It's been a while since Brøndby were in the semis, so it means a lot that we are there.
UEFA.com: Emma, your goal at home to Linköping, what did that feel like?
Emma Madsen: It was indescribable. It's one of those feelings you don't experience that often. It's the feeling you want to experience as a footballer, and it's pretty indescribable when it happens. Absolutely amazing.
UEFA.com: Are you hoping for an even bigger crowd when you play Frankfurt next weekend?
Nielsen: Yes, of course we are hoping for bigger support. Brøndby have a fantastic fan culture, so I hope at least the same amount of people will come, maybe even more, because it's yet another difficult game and we need all the support we can get.
Madsen: It was an amazing crowd to play in front of, against Linköping. There was a lot of noise, which we aren't used to. They were the 12th player and we needed that. It means everything to our team.
UEFA.com: Before the quarter-finals, of course, you got a new coach. Was it a surprise when Peer Lisdorff left? Did you know he was going?
Nilesen: It was a big surprise for everyone, even for Peer himself, so it was a situation we needed to work through. Fortunately we got a great replacement, but we really worked hard in the quarter-finals and did very well regardless.
Madsen: It was a big surprise, and a big transformation that we had to undergo, but it's gone very smoothly, although we were very happy with Peer Lisdorff during the few years he was here. But it was a positive to get a new coach and very motivating.
UEFA.com: Former Denmark defender Per Nielsen came in, a well-known figure throughout the club. How has it been since he's been coach?
Nielsen: I don't know if there's been a big difference in the club since Per Nielsen came, but I hope we can take advantage of his history with the club because he is a big figure, especially at Brøndby. I hope we can benefit from having a man like him as our coach.
Madsen: I knew him before, and I know everyone in Denmark did. He is a very, very good coach. He has shown us a lot of new, motivating drills in training. He is a sharp coach and he fits in very well because of his sense of humour, so it has been a very smooth transition.
I think it's created a lot of attention because it was everywhere in the media that he was going to be our coach, so it definitely turned some heads. It was a good thing.
UEFA.com: The next big test is against Frankfurt. What do you think about that tie, as it's much tougher than the other teams you've played?
Madsen: It's huge, but if we did it against Linköping, then I believe we can do it again against Frankfurt. It's not going to be easy at all, but we're going to approach the task as usual.
UEFA.com: You are the underdogs, of course. How do you feel about that?
Madsen: Fine, because there's less pressure than we're used to in the Danish league. There it's us who have to win. So it's a funny role which we're going to have – but it's nice to be an underdog because then you can only surprise.
UEFA.com: What do you think will be the key, then, if you want to beat Frankfurt?
Nilesen: We need the same unity that we had against Linköping. We were very good in defence, we were very disciplined. But if we want a chance to get through now, we need to be better with the ball and have greater possession, because otherwise it is going to be very difficult for us to pass this test over two games.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to the club to be in the semis, because you get into Europe almost every year, but it's been quite a while since you made it this far?
Nielsen: It means a lot to Brøndby, but it means a lot to Danish women's football too – we've earned a better position in the Champions League [seedings]. It also means that Denmark has finally seen some Danish women's football, because the [Linköping] game was shown on TV.
It means a lot for both Denmark and Brøndby that we've come this far.
UEFA.com: The men's club have never reached the UEFA Champions League final. What would it mean to the club and to Danish women's football if you could get to the final in May?
Madsen: It would mean a lot for the entire club. Danish women's football would get much more attention, which we've already had from DR [Danish TV station] who showed the last game. But it would mean everything to the whole club by sending the message that we can play football at Brøndby.