The months of waiting finally came to an end on Wednesday evening as the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 got underway in Sweden. For Danish international Johanna Rasmussen, the kick-off could not come soon enough. “It was a long road to get here,” said the 30-year-old, who plays for Kristianstads DFF in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “Our preparations for the tournament were great and now it’s got to the point where you can’t wait anymore. I’m really excited. We’ve worked really hard.”
Italy, Finland and Sweden are vying with Denmark for a place in the knockout stages and the lively Danes showed they mean business right from the off, battling to a 1-1 draw with the tournament hosts. “As I play in Sweden every day, they’re obviously the team I know best,” the amicable Rasmussen said, grinning.
With 106 international caps for Denmark, the tournament is Rasmussen’s third consecutive continental championship. The forward has noticed a marked difference in the on-field standards since her first appearance at the competition at England 2005.
"It’s become a lot tougher to get here, as women’s football all over the world is growing and becoming more professional,” Rasmussen explained. “There are no easy games anymore. At the tournament right now it feels like anybody can win it.” The results in Denmark’s group are testament to that, with all four teams on one point after the first round of games.
That will all change on Saturday, as Denmark face Italy in their next fixture, before rounding off the group stage against Finland. “Italy are the team I know the least about - I’m excited to see what they can do,” Rasmussen said. “On paper Finland are a team we should beat, but we’ve had difficulties against them before. It’s going to be a tough game as well.”
After taking a point off the much-fancied hosts, Denmark go into their game with Italy in confident mood, knowing victory would leave them with one foot in the quarter-finals. “Hopefully we can go all the way, or we shouldn’t be here and might as well go home,” Rasmussen continued. “If we can get out of the group there’s a good chance we can take another step. It’s hard to say how far we can go because there are so many good teams at the EURO nowadays.”
Danish dark horses?
Germany are one such side in that category, even if they failed to hit the heights in their opening match against the Netherlands.
“I think Germany are favourites for the title,” Rasmussen said. “They’ve won it several times and are always strong at these tournaments. Another team to look out for will be Spain. They’ve impressed me a lot in the last few years. We played against them recently and they’re fun to watch. They could go far.”
The same could easily be said of Denmark after their eye-catching display against Sweden. “We’re a team, we don’t have huge stars,” said Rasmussen. “We’re a collective and we work for each other, as a unit. Everybody needs to do well in order to succeed. Hopefully Denmark will surprise some people and go all the way.” On recent evidence, that does not sound too far-fetched.