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Backing Norway all the way

Having come through a test against Sweden, Norway's Ane Stangeland and Marit Christensen are ready for Germany.

By Paul Saffer & Kevin Ashby in Preston

When you reach the latter stages of a UEFA European Women's Championship, you know that life will not be getting any easier.

Tough tasks
Fresh from the second hardest job in European women's football - defending against Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson - Norway's central partnership of Ane Stangeland and Marit Christensen face the toughest task of all, as they meet Birgit Prinz and the rest of the prolific German strike force.

Dramatic tie
The duo were made to work by Sweden in Norway's dramatic semi-final win against their rivals. Norway took a 41st-minute lead, only for Svensson immediately to set up Ljungberg to equalise. Svensson departed through injury, but with Norway 2-1 up late in the game, and not long after Christensen had a header turned on to the post, Ljungberg struck again.

'Very happy'
However, in extra time captain Stangeland and Christensen held firm and their eventual 3-2 victory takes them through to Sunday's showdown with Germany. Christensen told uefa.com: "I am very happy now, it's just fantastic. It was a bit hectic at the beginning, but we played well. No one expected this from us, so that makes it even bigger."

'Hard game'
Stangeland added: "It was a very good match to play in, it was a hard game. We were prepared for extra time and penalties in the end, but at least we beat Sweden! When we scored the first goal we knew they would come back, and they scored a quick goal in response. Then 2-1, 2-2 - it was a close game. When Sweden and Norway play it is always a fight."

Ljungberg test
Christensen admitted Ljungberg was, as ever, a handful. "Hanna is a very good player, she is all over the place," Christensen said. "But we did well against her - she scored two goals but otherwise we had her under control."

German rematch
When Norway played a Prinz-less Germany in the group stage they restricted the holders to a single goal. Since Prinz's return, the Germans have scored eleven times in three games, but Stangeland is looking forward to encountering them at Ewood Park, especially as she will lead out Norway.

Captain's pride
"To captain the Norwegian team is very good, a pleasure," she said. "We are looking forward to playing against Germany. They are a very good team - the favourites. But it was a very close match in the group."

New experience
Like her defensive partner, Christensen's only previous major tournament experience was in the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup where Norway made the quarter-finals, and she said of stepping out on Sunday: "I don't know how it will feel - I haven't done it yet!" But can Norway win? "Of course."