By Katia Malkoc & Paul Saffer
Coach Bjarne Berntsen is confident Norway are on course for a good UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ performance after a promising set of results at the recent Algarve Cup.
Berntsen is looking forward to competing in England after replacing Åge Steen, the man who presided over Norway's qualification via the play-offs. The former international defender had a disappointing start at the helm, overseeing Norway's first-ever defeats by France in a two-game friendly series. However, in Portugal, his team finished fifth, beating China 2-1, losing to in-form Germany 4-0, holding Sweden 1-1 and defeating Denmark 2-1.
The 48-year-old told uefa.com: "We are happy because apart from the second half against Germany we played well; that was the only part we were disappointed with.
We think our preparations are going well for the championship in England."
Norway's EURO campaign kicks off on 6 June against holders Germany in Warrington, before further Group B games against France and Italy. Although they reached the last four in 2001, it is 12 years since Norway last won the title, yet Berntsen is happy with progress made since his appointment.
"Things are progressing well," he said. "I'm a new coach who has brought in new ideas and the players seem to be responding to those. We're really looking forward to EURO. We know we have a really tough group against Italy, France and Germany and it will be very hard to progress to the semi-finals but that is our immediate aim."
World Cup campaign
Their next friendly is on 6 May against England in Barnsley, and after a further fixture against Canada later that month and then their EURO campaign, Berntsen will start to look towards the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. The 1995 world champions, Norway were last week drawn with EURO rivals Italy, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro and Greece in their qualifying group - with only one place on offer in China.
"I think it's a tough group," said Berntsen. "There will be a lot of travelling but also some interesting teams to meet who we have not played much before. That's the exciting part of it."
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