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Norway expect tight opening battle with Iceland

Even Pellerud has laid down a semi-final challenge for his Norway team as they look for a winning start in Group B against Iceland, who failed to gain a point on their EURO debut four years ago.

Even Pellerud is hoping to lead Norway back to past glories, starting against Iceland
Even Pellerud is hoping to lead Norway back to past glories, starting against Iceland ©Sportsfile

Even Pellerud has declared that his Norway team are capable of matching their run to the 2009 semi-finals, but says they are expecting nothing less than a tight UEFA Women's EURO 2013 Group B opener against Iceland in Kalmar.

Having found success with his country two decades ago, Pellerud returned to the helm last December and is excited about the new generation of players bidding to revive past glories. Meanwhile, opposite number Siggi Eyjólfsson says his side are looking to improve on their debut appearance of four years ago, when they lost all three games.

Even Pellerud, Norway coach
It's an open match between two Nordic rivals who know each other quite well. Iceland are a very well-organised, hard-working team, as are all teams from Iceland in all sports. They have been improving step by step, from being beaten easily to now, and they can compete with every team. Maybe the neutral observer will say we are favourites, but we know it is going to be a tight game.

We have a goal of reaching the semi-finals and I think we are capable of doing so, but we are also aware that there are a lot of teams who will think the same way.

Since January there have been ups and downs in our results. We have played some very good games against strong opponents like Sweden and France and have also lost a couple of games that were disappointing, but there is potential in this team.

We have strong, experienced players, and alongside them there are six or seven players who have been playing in women's tournaments over and over again and know what it is all about. Then we have some up-and-coming youngsters, seven or eight of whom were at the U20 World Cup in Japan last year. They are the future of our team and for them it will be a great experience.

P10 W8 D0 L2 F35 A9

2013 results
12 January: W2-0 v South Korea (China tournament, Chongqing)
14 January: W1-0 v China (China tournament, Chongqing)
16 January: D0-0 v Canada (China tournament, Chongqing)
6 March: W2-0 v Japan (Algarve Cup group, Parchal)
8 March: D0-0 v Denmark (Algarve Cup group, Parchal)
11 March: L0-2 v Germany (Algarve Cup group, Lagos)
13 March: D2-2 (W5-4p) v Sweden (Algarve Cup 3rd place, Lagos)
6 April: L1-2 v Switzerland (a, Nyon)
1 June: L1-2 v Sweden (a, Linkoping)
29 June: L1-0 v France (a, Reims)
5 July: L2-3 v Russia (h, Moss)

Team news
Pellerud has "a healthy group of players and it looks like they will all be available for this match".

Siggi Eyjólfsson, Iceland coach
We are hoping to do better than four years ago, but it's another tough group. The other three teams were all in the semi-finals last time round, but it's a new tournament, a new start. You can always bring up statistics of what happened a long time ago, but we have a good chance, especially against Norway and the Netherlands. Obviously Germany are the favourites in the group, but we have played them twice since I have been coach and lost 1-0 both times, so you always have a chance in football.

We beat Norway in Iceland and although we lost the last time we faced them, we played quite well in their national stadium. It's going to be like that again, a close match which could go either way. It's not about revenge, it's about playing the way we want to play and hopefully the result will go our way.

It's a little bit of a different approach to four years ago, but we are still looking to qualify for the quarter-finals. We have improved as a team, we are moving up the rankings and we have managed to get some good results against some of the better teams in the world. I will be happy if the players give it everything they've got and if the people in Iceland can be proud of their team then I'll also be pleased.

P10 W7 D1 L2 F28 A4

v Ukraine: (a) W3-2, (h) W3-2, agg W6-4

2013 results
6 March: L0-3 v United States (Algarve Cup group, Albufeira)
8 March: L1-6 v Sweden (Algarve Cup group, Albufeira)
11 March: L0-1 v China (Algarve Cup group, Ferreiras)
13 March: W4-1 v Hungary (Algarve Cup 9th place, Parchal)
6 April: L0-2 v Sweden (a, Vaxjo)
1 June: L0-3 v Scotland (h, Reykjavik)
20 June: L0-2 v Denmark (a, Viborg)

Team news
Thóra Helgadóttir and Sif Atladóttir have stepped up their respective training programmes after injury worries and Eyjólfsson said it would be "a close call" if they are to be fit in time.

Match fact
These teams were in the same qualifying group, Iceland winning 3-1 at home on 17 September 2011 but losing 2-1 in Oslo 12 months later. That result was what Norway needed to top the group, sending Iceland into the play-offs.

Did you know?
Pellerud was in charge when Norway won the 1993 Women's EURO – the last time any team other than Germany have lifted the trophy.

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