Having been drawn in Group B against Norway, Italy and France in Manchester today, the Germany coach Tina Theune-Meyer knows that reaching the semi-finals of WOMEN'S EURO 2005 will be no formality for the reigning European and world champions.
Norway are the only European side to have a winning record against Germany, and Theune-Meyer says her side's first opponents in Warrington on 6 June will be "a force to be reckoned with." She continued: "They get forward immediately after winning possession and that can be credited to the players they have. Goalkeeper Bente Nordby is always concentrating and tries to initiate the attacks.
"In midfield they have Solveig Gulbrandsen, who never gives up, is always on the move and can also score goals. And up front Norway can look to a great striker in Dagny Mellgren. Furthermore, new coach Bjarne Berntsen has changed things a bit and introduced his own ideas. They will also desperately want to improve on their disappointing result at the [FIFA Women's] World Championship."
Italy were the last team to eliminate Germany from this competition, in the 1995 semi-finals, but needed a play-off victory against the Czech Republic to qualify this time. Theune-Meyer believes the Azzurre are unpredictable, mixing brilliance with inconsistency. "Italy haven't been as successful as they could have been in the past because they have always lacked consistency," said the Germany coach. "The same thing happened in the qualifying round.
'Hard to judge'
"It was plain to see that they can beat any team in the world on a good day and they proved that against Sweden. They are very dependent on their best players, Manuela Tesse and Patrizia Panico. Therefore they are a hard team to judge. We have always had a tough time against Italy and, if they rely on their skill and cleverness, they will be able to cause a few upsets."
Theune-Meyer is also looking forward to Germany's first meeting with Les Bleues in this competition. "
France will most probably be the most skilful side in the whole tournament," she said. "All of the players pass the ball around perfectly - just like all French teams. Sonja Bombastor and Stéphanie Mugneret-Béghé are the most influential players.
"Mugneret-Béghé, who is the heart of the team, can boast WUSA [the defunct North American professional league] experience and Marinette Pichon is waiting up front to convert her passes. Pichon is one of the best strikers the game has to offer today. She can shoot with both feet, is very effective in the penalty area and is always a threat.
"France's problem in recent years has been that they have impressed at tournaments, but always ended up empty-handed. I am sure that they want change that. I think they can win the tournament."
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