Once again Norway have been drawn with Germany in their UEFA European Women's Championship group, but they will have some inside knowledge in the form of Maren Mjelde.
At the start of the year Mjelde switched to 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam along with compatriot sisters Andrine and Ada Hegerberg. The 23-year-old, whose career had been spent at Arna-Bjørnar Fotball, already knew that Norway would end their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 Group B campaign against Germany in Kalmar on 17 July.
That is a familiar draw, since the teams were also in the same group in 2009 and 2005, Norway losing both games then again in rematches in the respective semi-final and final; in fact Germany have knocked Mjelde's nation out of every EURO since the group stage was introduced in 1997. Mjelde, who played in both 2009 encounters as well as Norway's epic UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship defeat of Germany the previous year, is sanguine about the draw.
"Obviously, we don't want to meet Germany, but if we're going to go through the group, we have to meet the best," Mjelde told UEFA.com. "So, for me, it doesn't really matter who we meet as we have to be able to beat anyone if we want to reach the quarter-finals."
Also in Norway's group are Iceland – just as in 2009 – and the Netherlands. The Dutch, like Mjelde's side, made the semi-finals four years ago, but that performance came amid an otherwise disappointing spell for Norway, who after qualifying for this tournament replaced coach Eli Landsem with Even Pellerud, mastermind of their 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup final defeat of Germany in Sweden.
Form was certainly disappointing, with Norway losing early qualifiers in Iceland and Northern Ireland before beating both at home to pinch first place in their group. "The Norwegian team has stood still for some time now," Mjelde said. "The small and bigger nations have improved. Hopefully now we'll develop as a team, and we're trying to catch up with the big teams.
"Many of the players in the current squad played in the finals in 2009. Everyone picked up good experience then and everyone's really looking forward to the championship [in the] summer."
Mjelde has got used to a different role with Norway than that which she played with Arna-Bjørnar. "I've always played midfield in my club, but I am playing at centre-back for the national team," Mjelde said. "I'm really happy to have the chance to play there in the national side. I'm a better player there – it gives me confidence to play where I want to play."
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