"We were so close to the final of the EUROs," lamented Denmark midfielder Mariann Gajhede Knudsen after her team's semi-final loss. "I'll probably never be this close again, so it's hard."
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Denmark midfielder Mariann Gajhede Knudsen felt her side "didn't create enough chances" after exiting to Norway on penalties at the end of their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 semi-final.
Kenneth Heiner-Møller's side were on the back foot from as early as the third minute, when Marit Fiane Christensen chested the ball into the net from a corner. They refused to bow out without a battle, however, and slowly fought their way back into the encounter, levelling via Mariann Gajhede Knudsen with three minutes to go. That took the game into extra time and then penalties, but having beaten France from the spot in the last eight, this time they came out second best.
"I will probably never be this close again, so it's hard," commented Gajhede Knudsen, who feels her side can take some consolation from "a lot of young players with a very big future". Those promising talents are sure to have gained invaluable experience from their campaign as well, having long threatened to be the real surprise story at Sweden 2013.
Denmark caused their first minor upset when they held the hosts to a 1-1 draw in their opening Group A game, goalkeeper Stina Petersen saving a pair of penalties. A 2-1 loss to Italy then looked like it might derail their bid, and they were left with a nervous wait after they conceded a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Finland. Unsure whether they would advance as one of the two best third-placed teams, Heiner-Møller and his troops had to keep themselves occupied for two days, until entering and winning a drawing of lots with Russia.
Relieved to still be involved, Denmark were then expected to lose to many people's tournament favourites France in the quarter-finals. Once again they proved impossible to budge, going ahead through Johanna Rasmussen and prevailing from the spot – Petersen saving again – after Louisa Necib had levelled. A second shoot-out win was beyond them, however. "I'm proud of the team and what we've achieved," added veteran captain Katrine Søndergaard Pedersen after her 210th cap.
Mariann Gajhede Knudsen, Denmark midfielder
We were so close to the final of the EUROs. I will probably never be this close again, so it's hard. It's tough.
It's never easy when the other team scores early and especially a team like Norway that's this good at defending. We knew it would be hard for the rest of the game, but after a while we came back to our type of playing again, and I think we had the upper hand. We just didn't create enough chances and we didn't score the few we had.
I was surprised that we had any energy after just a few days ago playing 120 minutes, but we prepared very well for this tournament and we've been training harder than ever before. It paid off. We just missed a little something this time.
This was amazing. Sweden, the host cities, the federation and all the people here have made this an incredible experience. We can only say thanks to all the people who were here today.
I hope we have a bright future. We have a lot of young players with a very big future ahead of them, and then some of us older players will think about the future in the next weeks and months.
Katrine Søndergaard Pedersen, Denmark captain
We came back late in the game. We're satisfied with the way we tried to attack the Norwegian defence and I think we did well in the extra time as well. We were trying to get another goal, but then it didn't happen and they were quite dangerous on counterattacks. And then we were hoping that we had the experience from the penalties and that would bring us to the final, but it didn't.
I'm proud of the team and what we've achieved. Maybe tomorrow or in a week I'll be very proud of this tournament. Not now – I'm disappointed that we didn't get a win today.