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UEFA Women's EURO Group A preview

Published: Monday 8 July 2013, 16.26CET
UEFA.com previews Group A, which pits hosts Sweden with neighbours Denmark and Finland plus two-time runners-up Italy in Gothenburg and Halmsta.

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Published: Monday 8 July 2013, 16.26CET

UEFA Women's EURO Group A preview

UEFA.com previews Group A, which pits hosts Sweden with neighbours Denmark and Finland plus two-time runners-up Italy in Gothenburg and Halmsta.

GROUP A SCHEDULE

Denmark
Denmark are fixtures at this level and in Sweden they are hoping to put right their recent reputation as a nation who always qualify but seldom progress at final tournaments.

UEFA Women's EURO 2009 was a good example, as they lost their last game to the Netherlands when a draw would have taken them through to the knockout stages; a similar scenario to their defeat by Finland four years earlier. They have been in the semi-finals on four occasions, and reached four out of six FIFA Women's World Cups. Now they hope a new generation, inspired by the likes of Cathrine Paaske-Sørensen, can improve on that.

Denmark were quick to make their mark on women's football, winning the inaugural, unofficial world championship in 1970. Led by captain Lis Lene Nielsen and inspired by goal-hungry 15-year-old Susanne Augustesen, Denmark were the world's dominant force, a fact they reiterated by repeating the feat in 1971.

Best performance: semi-finals 1984, 2001

Qualifying: Group 7 winners, P8 W7 D0 L1 F28 A3 Pts21

Qualifying top scorer: Pernille Harder 9

Key players:
Sanne Troelsgaard (midfielder, Brøndby IF), Johanna Rasmussen (forward, Kristianstad DFF), Pernille Harder (forward, Linköping FC)

Coach: Kenneth Heiner-Møller

They say: "We've played against Finland a couple of times, and they are great physically. I haven't played against Italy before, so I'm really looking forward to that. I think we will perform well." – Katrine Veje

Finland
Finland have a long history in women's football and played their first international in 1973 but it is only in the last decade they have stepped up from minnow status.

The appointment of Michael Käld as coach in 2001 proved the catalyst along with HJK Helsinki's run to the UEFA Women's Cup semi-finals the following year. With players like Anne Mäkinen, Laura Kalmari, Sanna Valkonen and Jessica Julin, Finland beat Russia in a play-off to reach UEFA Women's EURO 2005 and on their debut made the semi-finals. They were 2009 hosts and topped their group, only to lose 3-2 to England in an epic quarter-final.

At the end of 2009, Käld retired along with a number of key players. Swedish coach Andrée Jeglertz took over, and has gradually built a new squad, which gelled in 2013 qualifying where their only defeat, at home to Ukraine, came when first place was already certain. Linda Sällström has emerged as the key forward but she missed much of 2012 through injury, Sanna Talonen stepping up to replace her. Sällström will miss the finals and they have also lost captain Maja Saari.

Best performance: semi-finals 2005

Qualifying:
Group 5 winners, P8 W6 D1 L1 F22 A4 Pts19

Qualifying top scorer: Sanna Talonen 6

Key players: Katri Nokso-Koivisto (midfielder, Lillestrøm SK), Sanna Talonen (forward, KIF Örebro DFF), Annica Sjölund (forward, Jitex BK)

Coach: Andrée Jeglertz

They say: "I do believe our success will continue. I believe we have the ability to do well in this tournament." – Annika Kukkonen

Italy
Italy's hopes of a perfect qualifying record were dashed by a 0-0 draw in Greece with a finals place long secured, but having not conceded a goal in their ten games, it is a long time since the Azzurre came through as comfortably as this.

Of course, they have a proud Women's EURO record, reaching two finals in the 1990s in the days of Carolina Morace and never failing to be among the top eight. But they needed play-offs to make the 2005 and 2009 tournaments and are no longer considered among the favourites. They are becoming a stronger force, though. In 2009, they narrowly lost 2-1 to Germany in the quarter-finals and were pipped to the 2011 Women's World Cup in play-offs against both eventual semi-finalists France and runners-up the United States.

©UEFA.com

They looked supreme in qualifying, twice beating main rivals Russia 2-0, and up front the evergreen Patrizia Panico leads a strong attack also containing Melania Gabbiadini, Pamela Conti and Elisa Camporese, while the defence proved their strength. Shortly before qualifying was confirmed, coach Pietro Ghedin left to become Malta men's coach, replaced by 1982 FIFA World Cup winner Antonio Cabrini.

Best performance: runners-up 1993, 1997

Qualifying: Group 1 winners, P10 W9 D1 L0 F35 A0 Pts28

Qualifying top scorer: Patrizia Panico 9

Key players: Sara Gama (defender, ACF Brescia Femminile), Pamela Conti (midfielder, FK Zorkiy Krasnogorsk), Patrizia Panico (forward, ASD Torres CF)

Coach: Antonio Cabrini

They say: "I think one of our strengths is our game on the ground, we are good in that. If we are physically fit we can impose our game and move the ball around quickly, which is our style." – Sara Gama

Sweden (hosts)
Sweden won the inaugural European Competition for Women's Football in 1984 and hope to finally take another major title on home soil 29 years on.

Following their 1984 triumph, in which they overcame England on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate draw, Sweden reached further finals in 1987, 1995 and 2001, losing the last two to Germany, who also beat them to the 2003 Women's World Cup with a golden goal.

©Sportsfile

The last few years, though, have been a period of rebuilding after the retirement of that generation, which included Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson. Yet with the likes of Lotta Schelin and Caroline Seger in the side, they won World Cup bronze in 2011 – the best European performance – and with the appointment of Pia Sundhage as coach, they have every right to be optimistic.

Best performance: winners 1984

Qualifying: Automatic as hosts

Key players: Nilla Fischer (defender, Linköpings FC), Caroline Seger (midfielder, Tyresö FF), Lotta Schelin (forward, Olympique Lyonnais)

Coach: Pia Sundhage

They say: "On paper we might be better than the other three teams, so if everything goes according to plan we should go through from the group with three victories. But it's going to be tough." – Nilla Fischer

Last updated: 13/07/13 13.29CET

http://www.uefa.com/womenseuro/news/newsid=1968377.html#uefa+womens+euro+group+a+preview

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