As Sweden prepare to meet Norway in the quarter-finals of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™, captain Victoria Sandell Svensson has her sights set on crowning her long and illustrious international career with a winners' medal.
Before the finals began, Sweden's most-capped player informed coach Thomas Dennerby of her desire to cease playing for the national team after the tournament. The Djurgårdens IF DFF forward certainly made her mark on the group stage, striking two goals in three group matches to take an early share of the lead in the race for the adidas Golden Boot award, and admits it will be a wrench to sever her ties with a team she first appeared for almost 13 years ago. "Of course I'll miss being part of this team," she told uefa.com. "It will take some adjusting to."
Since making her international bow against on 9 October 1996 against Italy, Sandell Svensson has become one of Sweden's most revered players, increasing her tally of caps to 165 when she took to the field for the 1-1 Group C draw with England on Monday in which she equalised. Impressive as that maybe, the 32-year-old has, however, experienced her fair share of disappointment on the international stage, losing narrowly to Germany in both the finals of the 2001 UEFA European Women's Championship and the FIFA Women's World Cup two years later.
"The best memory of my career is still the World Cup final in the USA and the worst memory is conceding a goal in extra time of that match," Sandell Svensson, a scorer of three goals in that tournament along with strike partner Hanna Ljungberg, said of the 2-1 defeat. Sweden's run to the final certainly captured the imagination of the public back home, with 3.8 million people – or 42 per cent of the population – tuning in for the country's first FIFA World Cup final since the men lost to Brazil in 1958. On returning to Sweden, Sandell Svensson, in particular, became a household name. "I was invited on to chat shows and featured in magazines and I decided to ride that wave for the sake of women's football," she recalled. "But by Christmas I felt so exhausted that I had to start saying no."
Nevertheless, the game had found its niche in Swedish popular culture and when Dennerby's team kicked off their campaign in Finland against Russia on 25 August, it attracted the highest number of viewers for an opening game involving the women's team. Next up are Norway, the only country to defeat Sweden in 2009, but rather ominously for them and the rest of the remaining finalists, Sandell Svensson is predicting that the best is yet to come. "We feel secure," she added. "We haven't played our best football here yet and still we're unbeaten. I know we have another couple of gears to switch into and we have quality on the bench as well. That should work in our favour."
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