The Champions league & 1v1 Breakaways – Sweden’s Carola Söberg

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Carola Söberg is a goalkeeper in the Damallsvenskan – the highest professional league Sweden. She currently plays for KIF Örebro DFF who finished second in 2014, which qualified them for the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Recently they flew to Greece to play against PAOK FC. Carola has played for several teams in the Swedish league, winning it three times as well as picking up two finalist medals in the Cup and Super Cup. In 2014 she played for Avaldsnes IL in Norway’s Toppserien and earlier in the year with Tyreso made it to the Champions League final, before narrowly losing 4-3 to Wolfsburg. Carola was selected for the Swedish National Team at the Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015.

What will you remember about the World Cup in 2015? How did the experience improve you as a player?

We had a group of incredibly good players with a great mix of experience and talent, but for various reasons we didn’t perform when we needed it the most. It was frustrating, but sometimes you can’t really explain why. We didn’t have the margins on our side, but at the same time we didn’t reach our potential that we would’ve needed to go far in the World Cup.

For me personally it was more about keeping a high level during the training sessions since I was number two. When the coaches made their choice and picked Hedvid Lindahl to be the first goalkeeper, my job was to make her as good as she possibly could be in the championship. By performing at my highest at every exercise and maintaining a high level, it was automatic that Hedvig had to perform at her highest level.

You have a special relationship in a group of goalkeepers and it’s incredibly important to work well together, with respect, while having a competitive situation. I know I managed to perform well and stay at a high level throughout the championship.

How do you prepare mentally and physically for games as a goalkeeper when you are starting as a substitute?

Of course it’s different when you start on the bench against being in the starting eleven. As a substitute, you still need to be prepared if something would happen, and especially as a goalkeeper because it could be at any time during the game. Personally, I try to prepare the same way if I start the game or not. For me it’s about feeling confident in myself and my performance, and use that feeling if I get the chance to come in to the game.

We’ve talked to several players in the US Women’s League who have to have jobs outside of soccer to supplement their income. Is the same true in Sweden and Norway?

It is very different from player to player and club to club. The average wage in Sweden is at a 40-50% of a regular full-time salary, which means that many players are working or studying alongside. It is difficult to combine a full time job alongside football and it’s hard to put all the pieces together, both financially and time wise. With that said, if you want to play at the highest level, football always has to come first. That means that you have to find a job that is suitable with the football hours and it helps to have an understanding employer.

For me, I have my own business (CASO) where I work as an Art Director / Graphic Designer. I work with creative design that builds and strengthens brands. I also work with an agency called CMG (Connect Management Group). It’s an innovative management, brand- & marketing company with expertise in client management, consulting & partnerships. I’m in charge of the brand strategy and visual approach, determining the best ways to communicate CMG, as well as internal and external clients.

Both are jobs where I can decide my own work hours and work from a distance, which is perfect for me when playing at the highest level.

When you travel to play in foreign countries, how do you make sure that your training and match preparation are not disrupted too much?

When you travel you must obviously plan a little extra and make sure that you get the best conditions possible. When we traveled to Greece in the Champions League, my club KIF Örebro did a great job with the logistics, which is also their job, and it gave us the opportunity to perform well in the game. It’s important that everything works smoothly, but unpredictable things can always happen and as a player you have to be mentally prepared for anything.

During your regular league season, what does your week look like?

This year we’ve played a large number of games in a very short period of time, which always happens when it’s a year of a championship with a long break during the summer. Sometimes when we have three games in ten days, it’s all about maintaining freshness in your body and recovering for the next game. During a normal week with one game, a week could look like this:

Monday – Football training 90 min (GK practice 30min).

Tuesday – Goalkeeper practice with the men’s team in the morning, 60 minutes. Soccer practice with the team in the afternoon 90 minutes.

Wednesday – Strength in the gym, 70 min.

Thursday – Soccer practice, 90 min (GK practice 30-40 min).

Friday – Soccer practice / game preparation 70 min (GK practice 30-40 min).

Saturday – Game day

Sunday – Recovery / Rest

Many young goalkeepers fear getting into 1v1 breakaway saves when a striker is running at them. Do you remember being scared as a young player? How did you deal with it?

I think it’s good to have respect for breakaway saves and as a goalkeeper you are pretty unprotected, especially when you dive into situations with your head first towards a field player’s feet. It is important to learn the proper technique so you feel comfortable and also to prevent you from getting injured since it could be a dangerous situation. And when you feel comfortable with the technique you have to be brave and tough and work on the timing.

I can still feel uncomfortable sometimes when you see that your opponent doesn’t have full control over the situation and might end up unfortunate in a duel. But it’s only human to feel that way and I don’t think there are many people who wouldn’t think twice before they throw themselves head first against someone’s feet.

 When you are in a 1v1 situation now, what do you try to do to improve your chances of making a save?

It depends on the situation in itself, if it’s a 50/50 duel, it’s more about getting as close as you can to the opponent, being compact and having the confidence to go all in: you can’t hesitate if you’ve made the decision to go.

In a 1v1 situation I try to stand up as long as possible and put the pressure on the attacker. It’s all about being in a good body position from the start, reading how the situation develops and then reacting appropriately.

When you make the save, what is the body position you are trying to get to in order to secure the ball and protect yourself?

I always try to keep my body in balance, regardless of the situation. I believe that it all comes down to the body position and being in balance, to give myself the best opportunity possible to make a save.

For the breakaway it’s important to be close to the ready position because a shot could come at any moment. Always go with the hands first towards the ball and keep the head down after making the save to prevent a collision with the opponent.

How often do you practice 1v1 breakaways? Are there specific activities you like in training for it?

I did it a lot when I was younger, mostly to get the right technique. Now it’s more about getting into as many game like situations as possible at practice, taking the right decisions as quick as possible.

Once you have the ball, what are your immediate priorities as the first attacker?

First of all, it’s important to have a feeling about what the game looks like at that very moment. If you are at a point where your team has been pushed back for a long time or lost a lot of ball in our attacking game, it may be time to calm down and keep possession. Otherwise, I always try to see if there is an opportunity to make a quick transition. It’s important to quickly start the counter and I preferably try to find a right-sided player with speed on the diagonal.

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