There are teams you'll instantly think of when determining the contenders at the 2013 European Championship. Italy and Finland aren't among them.
Germany? They are probably the favorites, though they'll come in a bit short-handed. Sweden? The hosts are very talented and will have the crowd behind them. France? As skilled as any team in this tournament. England? Hey, they've got a shot.
But Italy and Finland, well, nobody will be holding their breath waiting for one of these teams to win it all. And that's why, when these teams meet in Group A action, it's a must-win for both sides.
Neither team will be favored against Lotta Schelin and Sweden, the group favorites, while Denmark has a dangerous attack and should be able to advance as well. In other words, if either team wants to sneak out of this group (perhaps as a third-place team), taking the three points here will be vital.
You'd probably be wise to put your money on Italy. Patrizia Panico is a dangerous forward, with 98 international goals, while Melania Gabbiadini and Alice Parisi are both talented, skilled players who will test the Finnish defense.
Meanwhile, Finland will be without two of its best players, forward Linda Sallstrom and defender Maija Saari, who will both miss the tournament with knee injuries. This is a young Finnish side, and one the more experienced Italians should be able to tactically exploit.
One thing is for certain—neither side is likely to beat a Sweden team with talents like Schelin, Caroline Seger, Nilla Fischer, Kosovare Asllani and Antonia Goransson. Sweden is good enough to win this tournament no matter where its being played, let alone in its home country.
And neither side will have an easy time dealing with Denmark's attacking 4-3-3 style—or 4-5-1, if the Danish decide to play more cautiously—and dangerous weapons in Pernille Harder, Nadia Nadim and Sanne Troelsgaard.
Ultimately, Italy has to be tipped to earn the three points here. The Italians have never failed to reach the knockout phase and with three points here could be on their way to extending that streak, especially if they can earn a draw against Denmark.
Look for Italy to stifle the Finns and earn a tight 1-0 victory.
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