Flawless in the group stage, Denmark's imperfections were ruthlessly exploited by Sweden during 23 painful minutes of their semi-final encounter. Far from despondent, though, proud captain Caroline Rask says she has been enriched in Antalya and underscored her team's intent with one last warning: "We will be back."
"It has been a very enjoyable experience," she said. "We have a lot of players making their tournament debut at this level, so many of us will be playing again. To qualify for the semi-finals and play very well against Sweden in the second half gives us something to look forward to for next season. We will be back."
After three consecutive 1-0 victories, Denmark had reason to believe they could reach their first final since triumphing in 1998 when the tournament began life as a U18 competition. However, it took just six minutes for their obstinacy to dissolve under Sweden's mesmerising swathe of counterattacks. Physically overpowered, Denmark faced an uphill battle and went two down courtesy of Elin Eubensson's classy double.
"The first half wasn't good enough, we were not pressing together and Sweden are a very good team and took advantage. They played extremely well," said Rask. "They are very strong, physical and we are not as tall as them."
Continually striving for perfection, Søren Randa-Boldt has cast a studious eye over his team's performances, while his message at half-time almost inspired a remarkable turnaround. "The coach said that we should start afresh. We should play with more freedom, push higher up the pitch and be more aggressive and we did. It helped a lot," said Rask. "In the second half we pressed them and played much more as a team."
Denmark were in the ascendancy when they halved the deficit on 61 minutes until Sweden's enduring class prevailed. Stine Pedersen's own goal ended Danish dreams, but Fortuna Hjørring midfielder Rask remained privileged in the face of adversity. "I love being captain," she said. "We have players that take responsibility which makes the job very easy. I am very proud to be captain of this team. I am proud of my players."
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