Preparations for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 step into a new gear with nine of the 12 contenders involved in the Algarve and Cyprus Cups over the next week – while two of the other three teams have important friendly fixtures.
The Algarve Cup has been running annually in southern Portugal since 1994, and Germany – who will aim for a sixth straight European title in Sweden this July – are defending the trophy they won in high-scoring style last March. They begin on Wednesday against Denmark in Group A before facing the side they beat in the 2012 final, world champions Japan, and then Norway – whom Germany also meet in the European finals.
Women's EURO hosts Sweden and fellow challengers Iceland are in Group B with the China and the United States, meaning that next Monday, Sweden coach Pia Sundhage will go up against the nation she left for her home country last autumn. The winners of the two groups will play off for the title next Wednesday, while a third group featuring Portugal, Wales, Hungary and Mexico will contest the minor places.
Elsewhere, England, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands are among the teams competing in the sixth Cyprus Women's Cup, though France are not defending their crown as they instead have a double-header of home games against Brazil on Wednesday and Saturday.
Using a similar tournament system and timetable to the Algarve Cup, England and Italy are in Group A with Scotland and New Zealand, while Finland and the Netherlands tackle Group B rivals Switzerland and Canada. Group C contains Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland plus South Africa and South Korea.
Russia, themselves past Cyprus contenders, are taking part in the inaugural Croatia Women's Cup in Rovinj. They will play group matches from Thursday against Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the Czech Republic, Slovenia or Croatia awaiting on finals day next Monday. Of the finalists in Sweden, only Spain are not in action over the coming week.
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