The Red Flames are plotting a giant-killing over the Swedes in tonight’s quarter-final, kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village. But, as Rachel Roberts discovers, both squads have been relishing their time in England and don’t want the journey to end…Embed from Getty Images
The Swedish fans have been having a blast while partying in England. By taking over streets and hosting ABBA singalongs in fan zones, they have really made their presence felt at this tournament and we can only thank them for the music and energy that travels with them.
They’ve certainly had a lot to cheer about — Sweden qualified top of Group C, with the record of a 2-1 win over Switzerland and a 5-0 battering of Portugal blemished only by a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in opening fixture.The Swedes are now hot favourites to progress to the semi-finals and the enthusiastic support will no doubt help spur on the Blue and Yellows once again tonight.
Red Flames have burning ambition
Underdogs Belgium, who are playing in only their second Euros, recorded a win, defeat and draw in the group stages, but that hasn’t dented their ambition. Like Sweden, this is a team that’s not afraid of marching to the beat of their own drum, as Reading midfielder Justine Vanhaevermaet told Uefa.com: “Qualifying makes us want it even more. We’ve grown in the tournament and, yes, we secured our first objective, but now we are ready to see how far we can go. We have good momentum right now. Who knows what we can accomplish?”
That being said, they will be under attack from one of the tournament favourites, a Sweden team that has defeated them in both their previous two meetings. For the Blue and Yellows, who have become accustomed to reaching the business end of the tournament, the aim is to the reach the semi-finals – anything less is a failure. But the Red Flames have nothing to lose as the tantalising prospect of a showdown with England in Sheffield next Tuesday awaits.
Then and now: Young Angeldahl and Bjorn in 2010, left, and more recently featuring for Sweden, right. Image: Nathalie Bjorn Instagram
Bjorn in pals’ act
To proudly play for your nation at a major tournament is sure to be a dream come true, something only surpassed by the joy of sharing this realisation with a childhood friend. Such is the reality for defender Nathalie Bjorn, who moved up the pitch against Portugal to play in midfield alongside her long-time pal Filippa Angeldahl.
The pair were playing at IK Sirius and AIK in Sweden together in 2013 and 2014/15 respectively. Now both have a home in the Women’s Super League, where Bjorn plays for Everton and Angeldahl at Manchester City. Before facing Portugal last Sunday, this duo were impressing Sweden’s social media channels with their acrobatic abilities in the gym. The warm-up must have paid off, as Angeldahl netted twice in that 5-0 victory the following day.
Speaking of her team-mate and friend, Bjorn told Uefa.com: “There are not a lot of people who can say that they have done that — it’s amazing. We know each other inside and out as I’ve played with her for a very long time. It feels safe to have her next to me.
De Caigny spills the tea on quarter-final
For a time, it looked as though Belgium’s place at this Euros was slipping through their fingers. Qualifying out of Group D was a tight affair – a 1-1 draw with Iceland and a 2-1 defeat at the hands of France left Ives Serneels’ team needing a win in their final game against Italy. Up stepped Tine De Caigny, who’s 49th-minute winner was enough to secure the three points needed to send her side through to their first quarter-final, as group runners-up. And how did the Hoffenheim forward unwind afterwards? Well, in true English fashion – with a cup of tea and a natter.
Asked her thoughts on facing big guns Sweden in an interview for the Red Flames’ official Twitter account, she said: “It will be a tough game, but I think we have to rely on our own qualities, set up a good organisation and then anything is possible… ” Clearly, Belgium are no mugs.
You can follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts