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Women’s Euro 2013

England kick off their UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 campaign in Sweden on Friday hoping, rather than expecting, to go one better than they did in the last tournament four years ago.

Coral rate England 10/1 shots and they should at least, if on their game, get through Group C and progress to the quarter finals without too much difficulty. But then it really starts to get tough and standing in their way at some stage are likely to be the mighty Germany, 6/5 favourites with Coral to lift their sixth successive title.

It was Germany who did for England in 2009, thrashing them 6-2 in the Final, despite Hope Powell’s girls going into that showdown with a fair degree of optimisim. The champions are now without six of their key players, but they have a conveyor belt of quality replacements and are again very much the team to beat.

Japan showed that Germany weren’t invincible when beating them on their own soil in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, but their record in the Euros is quite incredible – they haven’t even lost a match in the tournament for 20 years.

In qualifying, they won nine and drew one of their ten games with one of their new generation of stars, Celia Okoyino da Mbabi scoring 17 of their 64 goals. Just turned 25, Da Mbabi has an overall very impressive tally of 41 goals in 79 appearances for the national side and is quite clearly a girl the England defence will need to keep quiet if they get that far.

Group B should be a stroll for Germany, even though it includes Norway, who have the second best record in the Euros, and the improving Holland.

England face Spain, Russia and France, in that order, in Group C and the last game looks the toughest on paper. They drew 2-2 last October, but the French are considered one of the strongest teams in the tournament – Coral make them 4/1 joint second favourites to win it.

With the legendary Kelly Smith struggling with injury and likely to be used more as an impact striker from the bench, England cannot be expected to be quite so strong up front, but they were actually in decent form coming into this tournament until thrashed 4-1 by Sweden last time out.

The hosts (also 4/1 with Coral) seem rejuvenated under former Swedish international player Pia Sundhage, who returned home to coach the national squad last December after taking the USA to two Olympic Gold Medals.

If Germany are to finally lose their grip on the trophy then Sweden – on a roll, peaking at the right time and with home advantage – look the best bet to fill their boots. But it’s a big if.

Written by Jon Freeman