Denmark coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller is happy with his side's draw in qualifying UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ Group 5 - which reunites three teams who met in this stage of the 2005 event, Ukraine, Portugal and Scotland, plus convincing preliminary round winners Slovakia.
'A good draw'
"This is what we will have to characterise as a good draw for Denmark," said Heiner-Møller, who took over from Peter Bonde in July and helped Denmark successfully negotiate the final stages of FIFA Women's World Cup qualification. "The way I see it, Ukraine will, beyond any doubt, be the most difficult opponents in the group, while Portugal and Slovakia are teams we have to be able to beat. Scotland are a good team and on their way forward internationally, but we have the advantage that we can see them play before we meet them. That gives us an excellent opportunity to prepare ourselves for the matches against them."
While Denmark have never failed to be among the top eight in the UEFA European Women's Championship, none of their opponents have ever progressed so far, though Ukraine and Portugal reached the 2001 play-offs. Ukraine, however, finished an impressive second in their FIFA Women's World Cup group ahead of Italy, and only Germany and Russia finished ahead of Scotland, coached by former Swedish youth team chief Anna Signeul.
"I'm just so happy because I avoided Germany," Signeul told uefa.com. "We had them in the World Cup and in last EURO, so it is nice to avoid them. Also I'm happy to avoid Russia, as they were a very difficult team for us. There will be very many interesting games, I am so looking forward to it and it is a great step forward that more teams feel they can compete. In the World Cup only the winners qualified - it was very difficult. Now if you are a runner-up you have a chance. That makes the tournament so much more interesting."
She added: "Ukraine are very good, Portugal, Ukraine and Scotland were in the last EURO qualifying group. Against Ukraine we won and lost, it was very even but they have improved and are always difficult, especially away." Scotland defeated Portugal in both their matches to finish third in that group, while Ukraine were fourth ahead of Portugal, though each of their fixtures finished in away wins.
However, the win in Ukraine on 10 May 2003 was Portugal's most recent competitive point, with seven defeats following in that campaign and eight more in World Cup qualifying. Slovakia are back in the top level of women's football after relegation in a play-off defeat by Belgium in 1996. But in the second tier of 2007 World Cup qualifying they topped their group and in this tournament's preliminary round they had the best record across the five groups, beating Luxembourg, Lithuania and Malta by scoring a total of 15 goals without reply.
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