Sweden will embrace the pressure when they tackle Germany for a place in the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 final on Wednesday at a sold-out Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg.
The hosts produced a dashing display to overwhelm Iceland 4-0 and ensure a smooth passage to the semi-finals. Now they must draw on their intelligence to outwit the holders according to wily coach Pia Sundhage, who is all too aware of the threat Germany pose.
Her counterpart, Silvia Neid, was quick to quell expectations, billing Sweden – a team containing "world-class players in every position" – as overwhelming pre-match favourites. The 49-year-old – awaiting news of the fitness of striker Célia Okoyino da Mbabi – implored her charges to put in the hard yards to counteract Sweden's attacking prowess and continue their bid for a sixth straight title.
Pia Sundhage, Sweden coach
Tomorrow will be a great game with two great teams. There's a lot riding on the game with it being a semi-final, but it's a privilege to play under pressure and we like to embrace it. The way that we've utilised our speed on the flanks and up top has been pleasing, but at the same time it's extremely important to find our rhythm. Playing at a high tempo and getting the ball forward quickly will not be enough to get past Germany tomorrow, though. We need to be smarter than that.
Every time we play against Germany, you meet the same kind of style. They have neat combinations and speed with the ball, so it's important to combat that. Of course, we've done our research and the scouts have done a great job, so we feel that we are prepared for the game tomorrow.
I have taken no pleasure [in watching Germany struggle]. First and foremost I'm a football fan, so when I'm watching a game and things are being done well, I appreciate it. It's good for women's football. It's also beneficial for us to meet a team who are playing well because this [Sweden] team are capable of beating anyone. Let's not forget that Germany are a great team with wonderful players.
• The hosts opened with a 1-1 draw against Denmark in Gothenburg, where they stayed and defeated Finland 5-0 – a result that equalled the record margin of victory in a finals game. Sundhage's charges then overcame Italy 3-1 in their final Group A encounter to seal top spot.
Sweden 4-0 Iceland (M Hammarström 3, Öqvist 14, Schelin 19 59)
K Hammarström; Samuelsson, Fischer, Rohlin, Thunebro; Öqvist (Göransson 46), Seger, M Hammarström (Dahlkvist 63), Jakobsson; Asllani, Schelin (Konradsson 67).
• The Blågult blew away Iceland in a blistering 16-minute first-half spell, five-goal Lotta Schelin then scoring her second of the game after the break as she put daylight between herself and her rivals in the race for the adidas Golden Boot.
Sundhage announced that all 23 players are fit and raring to go.
Silvia Neid, Germany coach
I'm very proud of the fact we are here and we will do our best to progress. Pia is an excellent coach with lots of experience. I think she enjoys her role and she was a fine player. There's no reason why Sweden should be afraid of us. Why would they? They have lots of experience.
Today was all about getting the players in the right state of mind for tomorrow's game. It's important that they're rested.
It is obvious that Sweden are the favourites. They are the host nation with the support of the home crowd. They said before the tournament that they wanted to win it; we do as well but it's been difficult with so many injuries and an inexperienced team.
You have one team with world-class players in every position and we don't have that. But in the end it doesn't matter – at the end of the game nobody will be talking about who were favourites. They are extremely strong going forward so we will work as a team to keep them out and play the way we did against Italy and Iceland.
• Held by a compact Dutch side in their Group B opener, Germany then looked to have clicked into gear as they dismantled Iceland in Vaxjo. However, Neid's team slipped to their first UEFA Women's EURO loss since May 1996 as they were beaten by Norway and finished section runners-up to their final group stage opponents.
Italy 0-1 Germany (Laudehr 26)
Angerer; Maier, Krahn, Bartusiak, Cramer; Kessler, Goessling; Lotzen, Mittag (Marozsán 52), Laudehr; Okoyino da Mbabi (Däbritz 68).
• The holders repeated their narrow last-eight victory against the Azzurre of four years ago, player of the match Simone Laudehr scoring with a deflected shot through a ruck of bodies following a right-wing corner.
Okoyino da Mbabi, who has a record 19 goals in this campaign including qualifying, suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-0 defeat of Italy. Neid said: "Célia is OK. We still don't know if she will play tomorrow, but tonight she will do some sprinting and see how she feels. She is a player who is very difficult to replace, she creates space for others and is very dangerous on the ball."
Neid and Sundhage (who scored) both played when Germany beat Sweden 3-2 in the 1995 final in Kaiserslautern. Germany also defeated Sweden in the UEFA Women's EURO 2001 and 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup finals, both on a golden goal.
Did you know?
Antonia Göransson is at 1. FFC Potsdam with Jennifer Cramer and her former club-mates include Anja Mittag, now a colleague of Therese Sjögran and Lina Nilsson at FC Malmö
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