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Kaurin eyeing an early upset

Two-time champions Norway open Group B against holders Germany in the unfamiliar role of underdogs. However striker Leni Larsen Kaurin believes her side can thrive with the pressure off.

Leni Larsen Kaurin (left) could again come face to face with Potsdam club-mate Babett Peter
Leni Larsen Kaurin (left) could again come face to face with Potsdam club-mate Babett Peter ©Bongarts

Norway's Leni Larsen Kaurin has tipped her side to flourish in the role of underdogs and pull off an early shock in UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ Group B on Monday when they meet Germany, the side that defeated them in the final four years ago.

Inside knowledge
Not only is the gifted 28-year-old winger among the more experienced members of Bjarne Berntsen's youthful squad, she also knows her country’s upcoming opponents inside out. Norway's No11 has played her club football in Germany for the past two years with 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam and she also featured the last time these sides met in major finals, at the semi-final stage of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup.

New beginning
That game ended in a 3-0 victory for Germany and, in many ways, signaled the end of an era for Norway. A raft of key players – such as Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, Lise Klaveness, Camilla Huse and goalkeeper Bente Nordby – bowed out of international football in the aftermath of China 2007. A new generation has now arrived; unburdened, for the time being at least, by the expectation levels their illustrious predecessors took for granted. And Kaurin believes the current Norway side are primed to upset the odds by proving themselves worthy successors.

'Nervy' start
"Sure, we are not favourites, but we believe in ourselves," she told uefa.com. "It could be an advantage that people rate us as underdogs, but maybe we can come up from below and take Germany by surprise. It will be a nervy game for both sides; that’s always the case at the beginning. No one will want to take too many risks so we’ll have to see how the game develops. But I really hope we show what we can do.

Friendly rivalry
"Another thing is that there are no secrets between Norway and Germany. We have met a couple of times over the last few years. And, personally, I know many of their players very well. I even met my Turbine teammates Anja Mittag and Bianca Schmidt here in Tampere at the team hotel. Of course, Germany are a very compact team and they do a lot of things well, but I think we can break the code and find a way to deal with it."

Cause for optimism
Despite Norway's recent inconsistency, they did give a glimpse of their potential against tournament contenders Sweden just last week, when they clinched a 1-0 away win in their final warm-up match before UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™. And, for Kaurin, that outing provided further cause for hope. She added: "I think we proved against Sweden that, at our best, we can beat anyone. We need to perform well as a team – then everything’s possible."