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By Pete Sanderson in Preston
The seaside town of Blackpool has long been renowned for launching the careers of famous comedy duos but it is completely different kind of double act who hope to take centre stage when Sweden meet Denmark at Bloomfield Road in Sunday's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ opener.
Swedish strikers Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson are arguably the most feared striking partnership in the international game and their coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors believes both forwards can bolster their reputations over the next two weeks after the pair shrugged off their respective injury problems to score in a 3-1 friendly win against Canada last week.
"They are two wonderfully talented forwards who know each other so well they know what the other is doing in their sleep," the Swedish coach told uefa.com. "It's vital for confidence that strikers score and they can both relax now that they have."
Sweden arrived in the north-west of England as one of the leading contenders to lift the trophy and in the Group A press conference the three coaches were unanimous in tipping Sweden to top the group. It is easy to see why. Their qualification for the final stages went swimmingly well as they topped a group which included Finland and Italy, winning six consecutive games along the way.
Domanski-Lyfors has no injury problems going into the Denmark game in a squad which oozes class in every position. Hanna Marklund has proved herself to be a rock in the heart of their defence and captain Malin Moström will doubtless pull the midfield string alongside the talented Anna Sjöström. With their coach likely to adopt an orthodox 4-4-2 formation for the Denmark game, Ljungberg and Svensson will be anxious to add to their international goal tallies as Sweden look to shrug off their tag of perennial bridesmaids and win the European title for the first time since 1984.
"We hope we can go one better than we did in 2001 and 2003," said Svensson, who has amassed 39 goals in 109 international appearances. "This year didn't start so well from a personal point of view as I struggled with injuries, but it feels great to be at the European championship and we know we will have to be at our best to get through our difficult group."
Sunday's opponents Denmark, however, are not just here to make up the numbers. Swedish coach Domanski-Lyfors identified the Danes as the team most likely to trouble them in Group A and Peter Bonde's side have already proved they can match their neighbours when they held them to a scoreless draw in a recent friendly. Lining up in a 4-4-2, the Danes can also call on the services of their star midfield player Cathrine Paaske Sørensen who is expected who is set to further enhance her reputation over the next fortnight.
"She is one of those players who sets your pulse racing," said Bonde. "She's an incredible talent with an incredible first touch who will be vital for us if we are to succeed in England this summer." If the Danes are to succeed against Sweden she will have to be at her illuminating best in Blackpool.
Sweden (probable): Hedvig Lindahl; Anna Paulsson, Karolina Westberg, Sara Larsson, Hanna Marklund; Malin Moström (c), Frida Östberg Maria Karlsson, Malin Andersson; Hanna Ljungberg, Victoria Svensson
Denmark (probable): Tine Cederkvist, Katrine S. Pedersen (c), Gitte Andersen, Mariann Gajhede Knudsen, Louise Hansen, Cathrine Paaske Sørensen, Anne Dot Eggers, Merete Pedersen, Dorte Dalum Jensen, Johanne M. Rasmussen, Nanna Johansen.
Referee: Kari Seitz (USA)
Assistants: Andi Regan (NIR) and Spackova (CZE)
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