Few jobs in women's football are as hazardous as trying to mark Djurgården/Alvsjö and Sweden striker Victoria Svensson.
By Jan Juhlin & Chris Burke
Few jobs in women's football are as hazardous as trying to mark Djurgården/Alvsjö's Victoria Svensson, and the blonde-haired assassin will be out to spread panic in the 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam defence in this year's UEFA Women's Cup final.
It was her deft finish against Arsenal LFC in the semi-final second leg that booked the Swedish champions a place in the showpiece event, and the signs are that Svensson has hit a rich vein of form at just the right time. "This year didn't start so well and I struggled with injuries, but it feels great to have reached the Women's Cup final and also to have the [UEFA] European [Women's] Championship to look forward to," she told uefa.com.
With Sweden one of the hot favourites for June's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™, the 28-year-old striker will be vying to conquer Europe with both club and country in the coming weeks. Easier said than done perhaps, but Svensson has made a habit of rising to a challenge ever since she first lined up for boys' team Gällstads IF at the age of four. The rule-makers eventually put a stop to mixed-gender sides, yet Svensson believes the experience was invaluable: "I'm sure the fact I played alongside boys during my early years helped me develop as a player."
She settled in to the all-girls' game with Grönahögs IK, before really catching the eye at Nittorps IK, where her performances earned her the first of her 109 caps against Italy in 1996. Jitex BK were soon on the telephone and after being named Rookie of the Year in her first season, Svensson was rewarded with a move to Stockholm giants Älvsjö AIK in 1998. "Stockholm was a new town for me to and you never know how well you will adjust, but it all went very well - 1998 was something of a breakthrough year," she said.
World Cup run
Indeed it was, and Svensson capped it by being awarded the Diamond Ball as Swedish female footballer of the year. Five years later, she became the first player ever to receive the honour twice on the back of Sweden's brilliant run to the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup final. "The World Cup and the homecoming were perhaps the greatest moments of my career so far," she said. "We didn't really know about the excitement in Sweden, and to stand in front of all the fans who greeted us in the Kungsträdgården in Stockholm was a great experience. Then to receive the Diamond Ball a second time was of course the icing on the cake."
'Just one of the girls'
Having won the Swedish title four times with Alvsjö and scored 39 goals for her country, coaches and colleagues alike are united in thinking Svensson deserves all the praise she has received. "She's taken her game to the very highest level because she works so hard," explained Sweden's assistant coach Thomas Dennerby. "I'm just one of the girls in the team," she replied modestly. Expect Potsdam's defenders to take a slightly different view.