Denmark's last two UEFA European Women's Championship final tournaments may have ended earlier than many predicted, but defender Mariann Knudsen is expecting better this time in Sweden.
The 28-year-old was part of the Denmark squad at UEFA Women's EURO 2005 in England that failed to progress from the group stage after a surprise 2-1 loss to newcomers Finland, a game Knudsen missed. After helping Denmark qualify again in 2009, illness ruled her out of a tournament where they once more fell early after a 2-1 defeat by debutants, this time the Netherlands.
The latter finals had also begun with a 1-0 reverse against the hosts, their old nemeses Finland. It will be a similar case at UEFA Women's EURO 2013, with home nation Sweden awaiting Denmark in Gothenburg on 10 July. "It will be a good chance for the Danish people to come over," Knudsen told UEFA.com. "It is just three hours in a boat so that would be an advantage for us."
Looking back to 2009, when few anticipated Denmark missing out on the quarter-finals, Knudsen said: "Last time I was sick just before we went so I didn't go, but the team were very disappointed because we had a good squad and I think we should have done better than we did.
"I hope this year we will be better prepared. We have got some young players that have come up and I think we have a better mix of experience, youth and people somewhere in between. If we play our best we will have a chance; we can beat anyone on our day. However, if all 11 players don't do their best it will be difficult for us."
Of the 11 countries to have qualified in 2009 and 2013, six will have different coaches this time. Denmark's Kenneth Heiner-Møller, on the other hand, will enter July starting his seventh year in charge. "I think it has been good fun," Knudsen said. "Everyone knows how we want to play and everyone knows their role. I see it as an advantage.
"For Sweden it might be good to have some new blood. For us it is an advantage as we are a small country with not that many players, so to have a chance we have to perform as a team. We don't have individual stars. We have a few players who score a lot, but not 'top-five' players."
Knudsen will be on familiar territory at the Swedish tournament, having just completed her second year at Linköping FC, joined in 2012 by Denmark striker Pernille Harder. A third-place finish in Group A, involving the Swedes, Italy and, yet again, Finland, could mean Denmark play a quarter-final in that city.
"People will know us and that will heighten the interest of people coming to the game," Knudsen said. "It will be a strange feeling that your everyday life is the same as your European life. But we'll make the best of it no matter where we play."
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