With hordes of inquisitive reporters, thousands of fans at the stadiums and millions watching on TV, UEFA Women's EURO 2013 plunges its protagonists into a different reality. "My normal day is definitely not like this," Sweden newcomer Jenny Hjohlman told UEFA.com.
Most of Pia Sundhage's host squad have experience of UEFA Women's EUROs, Olympics and FIFA Women's World Cups already. Some, at least, have had a taste of, and even won, championships for Sweden at youth level. Hjohlman's background is different.
The 23-year old from Umeå IK was perhaps the player least known to the public when Sundhage announced her squad in late June. On Saturday night she stepped out onto the biggest stage, coming in as a substitute for Kosovare Asllani in the 72nd minute of the 5-0 win against Finland.
"It was great to get onto the field and get a feel of things," Hjohlman said. "The support from the stands is enormous, and to think that it's us that they're supporting. They really are the '12th player' that people talk about."
For Hjohlman it was her second senior cap, the first having come less than two weeks ago against England, also as a substitute. Since being picked for Sweden's squad, she has seen up close how the media follow the team's every move.
At Sunday's training, all of Sweden's major newspapers and broadcasters were present. As usual. "My normal day is definitely not like this, so it's really cool," said Hjohlman.
Her colleague Amanda Ilestedt was also uncapped when named in the finals squad and made her debut on 4 July against England. But the 2012 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship winner with experience of a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup is yet to appear in these finals.
Competing with Charlotte Rohlin and Nilla Fischer for a slot at the centre of defence is not making it any easier for her as Sweden prepare to face Italy in Halmstad on Tuesday knowing a point would secure a quarter-final place in that city as Group A winners. "Of course I'm happy to see them play so well," said 20-year-old FC Malmö player Ilestedt. "If I get to play I'd be delighted, but let's see."
Whether she plays or not, Ilestedt can count on having strong support, not only from the fans but from friends and family as well. "I had a lot of people at the Finland game," she said. "Definitely in double figures."
Hjohlman added: "I keep seeing people popping up with messages on Facebook saying they're at the games – people that I had no idea were coming."
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