This year’s June issue is full of EURO 2013 content. We were able to get personal with some of the players and learn more about the teams competing. If you enjoy watching the players on the field, check out some of their stories in our current print magazine. The animated gifs are provided by Ashley Dyce, a graduate of the Art Institute of California with a degree in graphic design.
The Danish Women’s National Team has a long history of quality soccer. With a national league that’s been around since the early 1970s, women have had a place in the federation longer than many other countries. This particular squad, under longtime Head Coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller , is a possession-oriented team, almost to a fault. They will keep the ball and play in a more defensive-minded shape while looking for a counter through attacking players like Pernille Harder, Nadia Nadim and Sanne Troelsgaard.
As we saw in this year’s Algarve Cup against Germany, when the Danes push forward they are dangerous. Their immense patience, though, seems to show a lacking of confidence in that pursuit forward.
A huge question mark for Denmark is between the pipes. Since longtime goalkeeper Heidi Johansen hasn’t fully recovered from an ACL injury suffered during the fall, Stine Petersen will make her first appearance in a major international tournament for the Danes. Petersen has been somewhat inconsistent during the build-up with a recent 2-2 draw versus Spain, and a 5-1 win over Russia before that.
Count on 36-year-old captain Katrine Pedersen to lead her team from the middle of the pitch, as she has done for more than a decade and a half. With a difficult group to advance from, the Danes will have to buy into their plan 100 percent and stick to it in order to be successful. Don’t count this team out, but it won’t be an easy task for them, especially against Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Finland. The first match against Sweden will be a telling indicator of where Denmark is headed in this event.
The host country has a recent record to live up to, but this is a good thing. After impressive showings at both the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Swedes have bolstered their squad with a new head coach in Pia Sundhage. Sundhage has returned to her native country in hopes of taking them to the next level. Using training concepts drawn from her US Women’s National Team tenure – including scrimmages against boys teams and creating star-like images of players like Lotta Schelin and Caroline Seger – Sweden are one of the favorites to win this year. Teams will look to stop Schelin’s world-class movement and finishing, but it will be a difficult task. With a focus on Schelin, space should open up for other quality players like Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson.
Sundhage has shored up her defense, pairing former center midfielder Nilla Fischer, with Charlotte Rohlin, a longtime veteran of the squad. Sundhage has also asked Seger to take more responsibility on the defensive end, allowing Marie Hammarstrom to use her passing skills and hoping to allow Lisa Dahlqvist to decide matches with more opportunities from further back on the pitch.
Similar to Germany hosting the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a cause of concern for the Swedes could be the amounting pressure of competing in a major tournament in front of a home crowd. High expectations likely go one of two ways: really good or really bad. Sundhage is very much used to this type of pressure, but are her players?
The Italians have been in this situation several times before where they make it to an important tournament, but the same big question remains: are they prepared?
Going into her fifth EURO tournament, Patricia Panico leads all players in goals scored during qualifying with 9. Will that be enough for the Italians to compete with some of Europe’s best? It’s possible. They scored 35 goals in qualifying, third highest of all the teams participating in this year’s tournament. Although goals might be more difficult to come by against top-quality teams, especially the likes of Sweden and a physically strong Finland, what impresses most about Italy is the fact that they didn’t give up a single goal during qualifying. This is thanks not only to goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli, but also a solid back line that includes veteran defenders like Roberta D’Adda and Elisabetta Tona.
If Panico can bear the weight of her team’s success and the backline keeps it together, Italy has the potential to be a team that could surprise opponents.
Preparation has been close to a disaster for coach Andrée Jeglertz and the Finns as they lost their leading scorer, 24-year-old Linda Sallstrom (Linkoping) to a recurrence of an ACL injury in March, and in April tied Slovakia 0-0 before falling 3-1 to the Slovaks. To make matters worse, the team lost Captain Maija Saari to a knee injury in early June.
Though a typically physical side, Finland have matured as a team over the past few years. I would not count them out of this group. With Sweden being the favorite, the other spot to advance is up for anyone to grab.
The team is undergoing somewhat of a transition as they have lost world-class players such as Laura Kalmari to retirement. Sanna Talonen will be looked upon to pick up from Sallstrom’s absence, no doubt buoyed by scoring 6 goals in the qualification phase. In goal they have a top keeper as Tinni Korpela plays her club soccer with Norwegian top side LSK and her play will be an important piece to Finland advancing out of the group stage.
Tiffany Weimer is the Founder/Editor in Chief of Our Game Magazine and a regular contributor to the site and the magazine. She is also a professional player, currently playing with the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. She has played professionally in Finland, Brazil, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and the US. Tiffany has her own website/blog at www.tiffanyweimer.com, where she writes about her experiences playing all over the world. She graduated in 2006 from Penn State University with a degree in journalism.
Ciara McCormack focuses her efforts primarily on the international game. As someone who originally hails from Canada, attended college in the US, played for Ireland, spent time training in Australia and South America, and went on to play pro in Denmark and Norway with players from across the globe, Ciara provides us with insight and updates from women’s soccer around the world.