In a five-year international career, left-back Sara Thunebro has grown from a fringe player into one of Sweden's most consistent performers, and she believes that their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ squad is the best she's been involved in.
Thunebro, who made her debut in 2004, did not make the cut for the following year's European finals but in 2007 travelled to the FIFA Women's World Cup, starting one game in the group-stage exit. On her return to China for the 2008 Olympics, Thunebro was a regular choice and the 30-year-old thinks Sweden have become a stronger force than they were when they reached the quarter-finals of that tournament. "There's a lot more harmony and security within the squad compared to previous years," Thunebro told uefa.com. "That's probably because of the confidence we've gained with the results this year."
Sweden remain undefeated in 2009, having beaten fellow finals contenders Germany, Norway and Finland as well as Brazil and the United States; the latter success, on penalties, securing victory at the prestigious Algarve Cup in March. Throughout, Thunebro has played an important part, not least against Brazil in April when she scored once and make Sweden's other goals in a 3-1 win. "Each year I've taken small steps forward," she explained. "I feel in great form now, but I haven't reached my peak yet."
Despite that, when Sweden kick off their finals campaign in Turku against Russia next Tuesday – after completing their warm-up schedule tomorrow versus Norway in Enkoping – Thunebro believes the most likely champions will be the nation who have won the last four titles as well as the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. "There can only be one favourite for gold and that's Germany," Thunebro said of the team that knocked her side out of the last Olympics. "They have the experience and they have a winning tradition. Of course I believe in our team, and we intend to fight for the title, but pre-tournament favourites we're not."
Thunebro finds it "fascinating to see how Germany's back four moves up and comes back at just the right time". Soon she will be able to study that at even closer quarters, as after the finals she will join Frauen-Bundesliga giants 1. FFC Frankfurt from Djurgårdens IF FF. "I'm curious to see how they work, since I've seen how the national side has achieved such success," she concluded.
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