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Sundhage embraces the pressure
by Paul Kennedy, July 9th, 2013 10:42PM

TAGS:  france, germany, sweden


[WOMEN'S EURO] Pia Sundhage will attempt to replicate the success she had with the United States as she leads her native Sweden into Euro 2013, the UEFA Women's Championship it is hosting. All three group games Sweden will play are sell-outs, beginning with Wednesday's opener against Denmark at Gothenburg's Gamla Ullevi Stadium.

Sweden has organized the World Cup for men and women and now will have organized the European Championship for both men and women. Organizers have already sold 112,500 tickets and are approaching the record of 129,000 tickets (including free tickets) sold in 2009.

The 12-team tournament will be played July 10-28 at six venues in the group stage -- Gamla Ullevi, Orjans Vall (Halmstad), Oster Arena (Vaxjo), Kalmar Arena (Kalmar), Nya Parken (Norrkoping) and Linkoping Arena (Linkoping) -- and the new national Friends Arena in Stockholm, site of the final.

Germany, winner of the last five tournaments, is the favorite ahead of France, which finished fourth at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics, and Sweden, but the Germans could be vulnerable.

Injuries cost Germany five players from its 2011 Women's World Cup team -- Linda Bresonik,Verena Faisst, Babett Peter, Alexandra Popp and Kim Kulig – and Coach Silvia Neid is taking seven players who are 20 year old or younger.

France features familiar faces like Camille Abily and Louisa Necib return, but Sonia Bompastor has retired.

The Bleues are coming off a 2-0 loss to Australia -- their first defeat in 11 games since the 1-0 loss to Canada in the bronze-medal game at the London Olympics -- but veteran coach Bruno Bini was not worried.

"Our aim is the competition," he said, "and we'll draw conclusions after that."

As for Sweden, Sundhage says it is a pleasure to play under pressure.

"We're playing at home in Sweden and there are a lot of enthusiastic people hoping that we play a lot of games and play well," she says. "I've learned from the five years in the States that it's a privilege to play under pressure and we have to embrace the pressure. These players do well when it matters."

She says Sweden -- led by Lyon star Lotta Schelin -- is prepared for the big occasion.

"For all these years," says Sundhage, whose penalty kick gave Sweden the 1984 European title, "we women have fought against the currents. I feel we've done a good job in sweeping the ground for today's gifted players. Lotta's life as a player is very different from what mine was. Also there's the fact that there's a lot of hopes and expectations in Sweden – we have a 12th player behind us – so I am incredibly happy and proud. I'm living my dream."

AMERICAN PRESENCE. The only NWSL player at Euro 2013 is Adriana Martin, who plays for the Western New York Flash. The Netherlands called up University of Alabama midfielder Merel Van Dongen.

EURO 2013:
Group A

July 10
ITALY-FINLAND (live), 11:45 am.
SWEDEN-DENMARK (live), 2:15 pm.

July 13
ITALY-DENMARK (live), 11:45 am.
SWEDEN-FINLAND (live), 2:15 pm.

July 16
DENMARK-FINLAND (live), 2:15 pm.
SWEDEN-ITALY (live), 2:15 pm.

Group B
July 11
NORWAY-ICELAND (live), 11:45 am.
GERMANY-NETHERLANDS (live), 2:15 pm.

July 14
NORWAY-NETHERLANDS (live), 11:45 am.
GERMANY-ICELAND (live), 2:15 pm.

July 17
ICELAND-NETHERLANDS (live), 2:15 pm.
GERMANY-NORWAY (live), 2:15 pm.

Group C
July 12
FRANCE-RUSSIA (live), 11:45 am.
ENGLAND-SPAIN (live), 2:15 pm.

July 15

ENGLAND-RUSSIA (live), 11:45 am.
FRANCE-SPAIN (live), 2:15 pm.

July 18

FRANCE-ENGLAND (live), 2:15 pm.
RUSSIA-SPAIN (live), 2:15 pm.
Note: All games will be broadcast on ESPN3.. All times ET.

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