Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson cannot help smiling as they recall their win at last year’s European Nations Cup in Spain.

The Swedes are back at La Sella Resort in Dénia, Alicante, to defend the title they won last year, by defeating Australians Karrie Webb and Karen Lunn in a dramatic sudden death play-off.

Gustafson showed her class when she hit an outstanding approach shot from 212 yards with a seven-wood, allowing Nordvqist to roll in a six-foot eagle putt on the par-five 18th for Sweden to tie with Australia at 21-under-par after four rounds, 12 months ago.   

It took three more holes to separate the teams, but Sweden eventually won with a tap-in birdie. They have returned as the favourites for the title this week and staring down the fairway at the 448-yard 18th as the defending champion on Tuesday, Nordqvist said:Obviously it’s a great feeling and so many good memories from last year. I just played the back nine and the course is in such great shape. It brings a smile every time I come here.  

“Walking down 18 where we made an eagle and had a good fight with Australia; it’s one tournament that I’ve been really looking forward to coming back to this year.”

The 23-year-old from Eskilstuna is enjoying being back in Spain and welcomes the opportunity to play alongside Gustafson.

Me and Sophie are very excited to be back playing in a team event. You’ve got to make putts and it’s going to be a birdie fest I think.”

Sweden is one of the most experienced pairs in the field with a combined total of 19 years’ professional experience and 28 tournament wins.

 “We are really close to each other in the US and we get on very well. Sophie hits it a little bit longer and I am pretty consistent so that makes us a really good team.

“She can take a couple of different lines off the tee and play a little more aggressive for example. You still have to back each other up. You have to play really well in order to win this week and there are many good teams,” Nordqvist added.   

I’ve been playing pretty consistent this year. I’ll keep working hard on it and you never know but hopefully I can hit a few good shots out here this week.

We don’t have that many team events and I think that’s what makes it really fun. Everyone wants to be here. USA comes with a really strong team and there were a couple more Americans that really wanted to make the team, so it’s just so special to play in a team and that’s why everyone wants to come here.”

There are 18 teams in the 72-hole event, including 16 from European countries and two from outside Europe. After Sweden, the USA is the most fancied by the bookies, represented by the effervescent Christina Kim and the long-hitting Brittany Lincicome.  Then it’s England, represented by Laura Davies and Melissa Reid, followed by Karen Lunn and Katherine Hull, flying the flag for Australia.