The start of the road to UEFA Women's EURO 2013 and the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany dominate the female national-team agenda this year.
In October, Sweden was selected to host the next EURO, the second to involve 12 teams after the 2009 event in Finland won by Germany. "Sweden is a great host country and I think we proved it by hosting the Under-21s for men last year," Sweden midfielder Kosovare Asllani told UEFA.com. "We did a great job with that so I'm really excited."
With the tournament running in July 2013, each group will be played at two venues: Group A at Gamla Ullevi (Gothenburg) – staging Sweden's matches – and Örjans Vall (Halmstad); Group B at Öster Arena (Vaxjo) and Kalmar Arena (Kalmar), and Group C at Nya Parken (Norrkoping) and Linköping Arena (Linkoping). The six venues will also each have a knockout game before the final at the new Solna Arena.
Qualifying kicks off with the preliminary round from 3 to 8 March, with two four-team mini-tournaments in Malta and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Two winners will progress to the main qualifying draw on 14 March, where 38 teams split into seven groups running for 12 months from September. Among the top seeds will be Germany, Norway, France and England, who, like Sweden, are limbering up for the World Cup from 26 June to 17 July 2011.
Naturally, most World Cup attention is on Germany as they bid to lift the trophy for the third time in a row. Big crowds are expected, starting with the opener between the home nation and Canada at Berlin's Olympiastadion, not least as a total of 397,385 people watched the 32-game 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany, won by the hosts.
Also in Germany's Group A are France, who scored 53 goals in 12 qualifiers, and African champions Nigeria. England, runners-up at EURO 2009, take on Japan, New Zealand and Mexico in Group B. Sweden are tested by two-time winners the United States – who pipped Italy in a qualifying play-off – as well as Korea DPR and newcomers Colombia in Group C. The 1995 champions Norway are in Group D with 2007 runners-up Brazil, Australia and debutants Equatorial Guinea.
When the draw was made in final venue Frankfurt in late November, Germany coach Silvia Neid said: "I still have a lot to do in the next six months, and the time will fly by. We have to ensure we're not thrown off course by the huge expectations in the country, because we put ourselves under enough pressure as it is. We've got to go out and enjoy ourselves."