UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Nordic neighbours seek final say

Scandinavian pride will be at stake when Norway tackle Sweden for a place in Sunday's final against Germany.

By Kevin Ashby in Preston

One hundred years after the union between Norway and Sweden ended, Scandinavia's two most successful women's football nations meet in Warrington with the winners advancing to the final of the 2005 UEFA European Women's Championship against Germany.

'Special year'
The countries joined forces in 1814 and formed an association which was to last until 1905, when Norway again became an independent state with its own monarchy. Much of the friendly rivalry between the nations stems from the severing of that alliance, and coach Bjarne Berntsen spoke for all Norwegians when he told uefa.com: "It's a special year for us, and they're our biggest rivals. We're all really looking forward to the game."

Final victory
Sweden may have held the upper hand in that historical union, but it is Norway who have had the edge in previous meetings between the sides, winning half of the 36 official matches played since 1978 and losing just ten. Norway defeated Sweden in the final of this competition in 1987, the semi-finals in 1989 and a FIFA World Cup semi-final showdown in 1991. Sweden's most significant victory came at this stage of the 1995 EURO.

Pool winners
Both teams left it late to qualify. Sweden entered their final Group A game against England needing to beat the hosts to be sure of progress; a third-minute goal from Anna Sjöström ensured they did just that to win the section and avoid a date with Germany. Norway also required maximum points against Italy, but were reliant on the Germans beating France; both results went their way, although the French were 18 minutes away from getting the draw they needed.

Old foes
"We were in a very difficult position after the first two games, as were Sweden," Berntsen said. "But we got through and now play our neighbours and rivals for a place in the final, which is obviously great." The coach felt his side "should have taken a point from the game against Germany" and maybe beaten France - the matches ending 0-1 and 1-1 - but is nevertheless happy with the strides Norway have taken since his appointment in December.

'Offensive patterns'
"I have introduced a lot of new, young players who can play for Norway for many, many years," Berntsen said. "I've also worked a lot with our offensive patterns of play and we are becoming better and better in attack." After failing to score against Germany, Norway's attack certainly grew in stature following the introduction of 16-year-old sensation Isabell Herlovsen against France, although the coach may prefer the more defensive-minded Unni Lehn, 28, in Warrington.

'Key area'
Berntsen identified Sweden's main strengths as "experience", and a forward line of Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson, saying: "They have two very good front players who have been among the best strikers in the world for several seasons - that will be the key area." So far, though, the Swedish defence have outshone their attacking counterparts, although coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors knows her whole team must perform as a whole if they are to reach a second successive final.

'Best shot'
"It's a great challenge that we are facing and Norway must be favourites," she said. "But we'll give it our best shot and everyone is fit for the fight and raring to go, so we are looking forward to the game," said Domanski-Lyfors. "We have done everything possible to get ourselves focused for this match. We even practised penalties in case it comes down to them, but we hope we can win this game in 90 minutes." Time will tell.