Just under a year since leading the United States to their second straight Olympic gold, coach Pia Sundhage told her Sweden players to "embrace the pressure" of their opening game as UEFA Women's EURO 2013 hosts against Denmark.
Gothenburg's Gamla Ullevi will be full for the Group A opener and Sundhage will be "living her dream" after years of fighting "against the currents". However, her opposite number Kenneth Heiner-Møller said Denmark had "never been so prepared".
Pia Sundhage, Sweden coach
Our preparations have been great so far. We have done a pretty good job to make sure the team is ready. It is a pleasure to play under pressure. Myself and the players are ready for the first game. The best player [of Denmark] is the team!
If you look at the team I am a coach of, it's a team that's playing very well. We're playing at home in Sweden and there are a lot of enthusiastic people hoping that we play a lot of games and play well. I've learnt from the five years in the States that it's a privilege to play under pressure and we have to embrace the pressure. These players do well when it matters.
This is a happy team. It was happy in 2011 [when finishing third at the FIFA Women's World Cup] and we will show you smiles and play good football. We have prepared for the big moment and it is really important to enjoy the moment. I have faith in the team – they will go out there and play some good football.
For all these years, we women have fought against the currents. I feel we've done a good job in sweeping the ground for today's gifted players. Lotta [Schelin]'s life as a player is very different from what mine was. Also there's the fact that there's a lot of hopes and expectations in Sweden – we have a 12th player behind us – so I am incredibly happy and proud. I'm living my dream.
Automatic as hosts
6 March: D1-1 v China (Algarve Cup group, Parchal)
8 March: W6-1 v Iceland (Algarve Cup group, Albufeira)
11 March: D1-1 v United States (Algarve Cup group, Lagos)
13 March: D2-2 (L4-5p) v Norway (Algarve Cup 3rd place, Lagos)
6 April: W2-0 v Iceland (h, Vaxjo)
1 June: W2-1 v Norway (h, Linkoping)
19 June: D1-1 Brazil (h, Stockholm)
4 July: W4-1 v England (h, Ljungskile)
Winger Josefine Öqvist can start after UEFA ruled she had served a two-match ban following her red card in Sweden's 2-1 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup third-place play-off defeat of France. Caroline Seger hurt her thigh on Sunday, but Sundhage confirmed she is in full training and "the whole team are ready".
Kenneth Heiner-Møller, Denmark coach
We are preparing, and we are prepared. The game tomorrow will be tough, it will be decided by character and desire. I can assure you this Danish side is going to give everything to win. This is a whole-hearted Denmark side – we are ready for this tournament, we are ready for tomorrow, we are looking forward to it.
When new coaches arrive, something happens – Pia has put her fingerprints on her team. In the last six months, maybe more, Lotta [Schelin] has been a key player because she doesn't always drop deep. She receives the ball in front of the defence and tries to make the decisive pass.
Hopefully we will have a different result than those [previous opening] games [which Denmark failed to win]. When you look at everything, we are Danish but we understand Swedish. We usually lose the opener, we usually lose to Sweden, who are No2 in the FIFA rankings and one of the favourites for EURO. This is history, tomorrow is another game. We will be prepared and the team have never been this prepared for an opener.
P8 W7 D0 L1 F28 A3
12 February: D0-0 v Spain (a, Las Rozas)
6 March: D0-0 v Germany (Algarve Cup group, Albufeira)
8 March: D0-0 v Norway (Algarve Cup group, Parchal)
11 March: L0-2 v Japan (Algarve Cup group, Faro-Loule)
13 March: W3-0 v Mexico (Algarve Cup 7th place, Lagos)
5 April: L0-1 v Netherlands (h, Silkeborg)
8 April: W5-0 v Russia (h, Horsens)
20 June: W2-0 v Iceland (h, Viborg)
28 June: D2-2 v Spain (h, Vejle)
Like their opponents, Denmark have a full-strength side as Heiner-Møller hopes to get through a group stage for the first time in his last campaign as coach.
Denmark also met the hosts in the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 opener, succumbing 1-0 to Finland. They exited that tournament in the group stage, just as they did in 2005 behind Sweden and Finland (having beaten hosts England). Two years earlier, in 2007, they lost 3-2 in their Women's World Cup opener, also against the hosts, China.
Did you know?
Heiner-Møller had three meetings with Sundhage in her previous role with the United States – all at the Algarve Cup. In 2012 the US beat Denmark 5-0 and also won 2-0 in 2009 and 2-1 in the 2008 final.
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