Sweden begin their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ campaign against Russia on Tuesday with coach and players united in expressing a determination to end a barren 25-year spell since they last got their hands on the European title.
They won UEFA's first ever tournament for women's international teams – a precursor to the current competition – in 1984, and since then they have finished runners-up three times and reached the semi-finals on another three occasions. Now, as they prepare to get their latest bid up and running at Turku Stadium, Thomas Dennerby's side believe it is time to discard their 'bridesmaid' status.
"Sweden have been one of the best teams during all these years [since 1984], but of course we really want to have a go now," explained the coach. "It's time now [to win it]. The players say it and the coach also says it! We feel very good at the moment. We have had some small problems with injuries but it's going the right way now. We feel very well-prepared and it's a question now of waiting for the first game. For a long time it was very hard to score goals against Sweden, but in the last year we have done very well in attack."
Dennerby's Russian counterpart Igor Shalimov admitted that Sweden are favourites for the Group C encounter and suggested his charges will adopt a counterattacking approach. "Sweden are a very serious opponent and one of the strongest teams in the world," he said. "It is important in a game when maybe the teams are not equal in force to start to play defensively but the game can then go any way. We will try and play on the counterattack and see what happens. Yesterday Denmark were the favourites in their game but it turned in such a way that Finland won. That is why we can win against any team."
Their last warm-up games offer an interesting slant on the encounter, with Russian confidence high after beating the Netherlands 1-0 and Sweden losing for the first time this year, 1-0 against Norway. That ended a run that had taken in defeats of Germany, Brazil and China, as well as their triumph in the prestigious Algarve Cup courtesy of a penalty shoot-out victory over the United States in the final. Dennerby denied that morale had been dented, however. "It was the natural reaction after a year without losing, plus Norway wanted to prove that their 5-1 defeat earlier in the year was not a true difference between the teams," he said.
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