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By Pete Sanderson in Blackburn
With its soot-sodden brickwork and a skyline dominated by old cotton mills, the small town of Blackburn may not be an obvious tourist spot for your average Scandinavian sightseer. But Denmark coach Peter Bonde admits his squad have "fallen in love" with the Lancashire town ahead of Wednesday's crunch UEFA European Women's Championship Group A match with hosts England.
"You can smell the football in the air - we love it," Bonde told uefa.com after the Danes had earned themselves a 1-1 draw with a Sweden side many believed would top Group A at a canter. "This place is where football began and everything about it oozes football. I think it has had a real effect on my players and they are just desperate to take on England in the next game. They don't care if 15,000 people will be cheering England, they are loving every minute of being here."
Bonde's attitude is like a breath of fresh air and his passion for the game clearly rubbed off on his players once they had got into their stride against the Swedes. But the Denmark coach is well aware England will pose a completely different kind of threat when they meet at Blackburn Rovers FC's Ewood Park.
"The England game will be completely different as I think they play a more similar system to the one which we used against the Swedes," said Bonde. "They like to get three forward and have some very talented wide players who will look to get behind us from wide positions. I have seen them play a few times and I was very impressed with Rachel Yankey. The Danish always appreciate a quick and skilful winger so we will make sure we do everything we can to keep her quiet."
Denmark are expected to start with the side which earned them a draw with Sweden, with Johanna Rasmussen and Cathrine Paaske Sørensen, two players England coach Hope Powell identified as being a danger, looking to reproduce the form they showed in their opening game.
Powell, who was delighted with the result but not the performance in England's 3-2 win against Finland, said her squad were in relaxed mood. "We know we can play better than we did against Finland," she said. "
Denmark are a great side and have some talented individuals such as Sørensen and Rasmussen and they will arrive in Blackburn on a real high after the draw with one of the tournament favourites."
England, who like the Danes are likely to adopt a 4-3-3 system, have a fully-fit squad to choose from and Powell believes some individuals have plenty to prove after their opening display. "We have had a chat about ways we must improve against the Danes and one or two individuals know they have plenty to prove," the coach said. If Powell has her way, Bonde's memories of Blackburn may not be quite so cheery come Thursday morning.
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