Having surprised at the last two UEFA Women's EUROs, Norway are tipped by many this year and Ingvild Stensland tells UEFA.com that they have "a good mix".
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In the last two UEFA European Women's Championships, Norway have gone in as underdogs but made the final in 2005 and last four in 2009 – each time knocking out Sweden.
Sweden is the destination for UEFA Women's EURO 2013 and for the third tournament running Germany are Norway's opening opponents – the holders also ended their campaign in 2005 and 2009. This time, though, Norway are fancied to do well with an experienced core including Ingvild Stensland. The Stabæk FK midfielder spoke to UEFA.com about their chances and her tournament memories.
UEFA.com: Do you think you will be able to surprise again, since expectations are higher now than in 2009?
Ingvild Stensland: I think there will always be expectations for Norway. As you say, we've always performed well in championships. Expectations were lower in 2009, perhaps because of relatively bad results leading up to it. Now we've perhaps done better and have something to live up to. We have a great team, and are looking forward to the EURO.
UEFA.com: What are your memories of the 2005 run to the final?
Stensland: It was a great tournament, and the best thing about it was the match that had everything, Sweden in the semi-final. Lots of attention and speculation beforehand and in the end we came out on top. It was tough to lose the final, though.
UEFA.com: And then in 2009 you beat Sweden in the quarter-finals ...
Stensland: Without focusing too much on Sweden, it's always good to beat them. We did surprise slightly by winning bronze, but no one expected anything ahead of that Sweden game. We won 3-1, and then we had a slightly tougher opponent in Germany. We knew Germany were going to be tough to beat, they are a very good team. If we had managed to get 2-0 up then perhaps it would have ended differently. But afterwards Germany took more and more control of the match, scored two goals, and from then on we were without a chance.
UEFA.com: For you, playing for Norway, what did you take from those two tournaments, for the preparations for the EURO?
Stensland: We are better and better prepared, more training matches during the winter, and in the spring qualification matches we are playing against the best teams. I don't think it will be different this time to what we've done before. We are going to play a lot of games, and work a lot with the team.
UEFA.com: How are you feeling ahead of the finals?
Stensland: I'm very hungry. We have a new coach [Even Pellerud], and we are good at creating enthusiasm and drive in the team. We have a good mix of young and older players, which I think can be good. We have the experience and we have played in tournaments before. The youngsters are hungry and full of expectations, and that kind of mix can be positive.
UEFA.com Can you say something about the different challenges the different opponents in the group pose?
Stensland: Germany are possibly the strongest opponents. They won the last EURO, and even though they've been going through a generational change, they have great players. Iceland, that's going to be like a Nordic warrior struggle, they are tough to play against. The Netherlands have developed quite a bit, and I'm very curious how they are going to look at the EURO.