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Euro 2017

‘Fearless’ Germany open EUROs against ‘relaxed’ Sweden

Germany captain Dzsenifer Marozsan dispenses high-fives for the start of the second half against France. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

Up first for six-time reigning EURO Champions, Germany? Pia Sundhage’s Sweden. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

BREDA, NETHERLANDS – A heavyweight encounter awaits at Rat Verlegh Stadion on Monday with Germany vs. Sweden. Each side wants to start EURO 2017 with a Group B win. Germany wants to show that they’ve not lost a step from transitioning from Silvia Neid to Steffi Jones. Coach Pia Sundhage will be stepping down as Sweden’s coach following this tournament. Winning the EUROs would be a fantastic ending worthy of another Pia song and dance.

Germany has other ideas though. The holders have won six consecutive European Championships, and eight of the last nine editions. Germany are clear favorites to win EURO 2017 until someone can end the impressive streak they’re on. FC Rosengård’s Anja Mittag acknowledges the pressure to win comes not only from the media and fans.

“The pressure comes from ourselves,” said Mittag, following Germany’s press conference with the media. “We want to win the EUROs, we won it the last couple of times. You’d be laughing at me, if I tell you (we) just want to reach the quarterfinals, of course it’s something we want to do.”

Sundhage has already confirmed her starting 11 to play against Germany, but she was tight-lipped about specifics when asked by the Swedish press. Sweden is expected to play a 4-4-2 with Lotta Schelin and Fridolina Rolfö up top. Lisa Dahlkvist, Caroline Seger, Olivia Schough, Kosovare Asllani should be patrolling the midfield.

“Everybody is fit, happy, and longing for the match tomorrow,” said Sundhage.

Ranked 9th in FIFA rankings, Sundhage likes Sweden’s chances of pulling out a result against Germany. If there was ever a time to get the better of Germany, the first year under a new coach is exactly the opportunity Sundhage and Sweden are ready for.

The reoccurring knock against Sweden is the old adage of time. This is likely the final major tournament for the trio of Seger, Schelin and Nilla Fischer. Sundhage isn’t bothered by the notion that Sweden is too old or past their best before date.

“I’m happy with the team right now,” admitted Sundhage. “I think we’re prepared very well. I’d rather look at it as a strength and not a weakness.”

{EUROS: Netherlands, Denmark open with wins | Netherlands off to perfect start}

The 32-year-old Seger knows that it will take a full 90-minute effort against Germany. Having 11 players that are switched on for the duration of the match will be of utmost importance. Sweden can’t afford any lapses against the ever dangerous Germans.

“We are very relaxed,” said Seger. “We know when to turn off and on the switch. We want a good start. It would be perfect to beat Germany.”

German engineering never ceases to amaze with producing top players and having them step up in the clutch in tournament time. Germany beat Sweden 2-1 in the 2016 Rio Olympic Gold medal final. If Germany is to take anything from that, it won’t be much.

“Maybe the win, that’s maybe the only thing,” said Mittag. “I think our team has changed a lot. It’s different for us. We’ll see when we look back, what it’s like. We’ll take it as it comes tomorrow.”

Steffi Jones will be out to prove that she can coach and get the best out of Germany just as Silvia Neid did. Sundhage will want Sweden to dictate the match and show that her experience can help get the better of Jones in her EURO managerial debut.

“We do not have any fear,” revealed Jones. “We’re optimistic about the match. We think we can beat them with our technical skill. I’m confident the match will go well.”

There is a mutual respect between players on both teams. There are players from both countries playing in the Damallsvenskan, and Frauen-Bundesliga. Besides the three points, bragging rights will be up for the taking, and not only between the players.

Asked if she loves or hates playing against Germany, Sundhage was captivating as she held court during Sweden’s press conference on Sunday.

“I love every single football match, including Germany,” said Sundhage.

While all eyes are focused on Germany vs Sweden, there is another match happening in Group B. Italy vs Russia will take place at Sparta Stadion in Rotterdam.

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