With UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying now entering its decisive phase, few would have thought the joint leading scorer would still be a 19-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Lidija Kuliš has struck seven goals in five Group 1 matches – including four in November's 6-2 win in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and two more in last month's 3-2 victory in Greece. That haul leaves her level with Denmark's Pernille Harder and Spain's Verónica Boquete. Not bad for a player in her first senior campaign with a country that lost all their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers.
It is nice to see my country on the list with all the other big nations like Denmark or Spain, players like Pernilla Harder or Verónica Boquete," Kuliš told UEFA.com. "I didn't expect it and it gives me an extra boost of motivation. When I have a chance to score, I will."
Bosnia and Herzegovina may only be three points off a play-off place but Kuliš knows it will be hard to maintain that challenge in Ferrara on Saturday against an Italy side with five wins and 19 unanswered goals. "That will be a hard game for us, because Italy are a really good side," she said. "We only lost 1-0 at home through a penalty. It was a good game for us, and we want to be as solid in defence as we were in the first game, but it will be tough to score."
Hopes are higher for June when the teams blocking their way to the play-offs, Poland and Russia, come visiting. "The games against Russia and Poland will be crucial for us," Kuliš said. "We especially want to win against Poland, as we didn't play well when we went there. Russia might be still a bit too strong for us, but I think third place is a realistic target."
She has good reason to aim high. While most of her team-mates are based with her old team WFC SFK 2000 Sarajevo and others with clubs in Slovenia and Serbia, Kuliš signed for two-time European champions 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam last summer having impressed coach Bernd Schröder in a seven-day trial the previous winter. It was not the first visit to Germany for the teenager, who had tried out for 1. FFC Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg in 2008. "They were also interested, but there was a problem with my age, because I was only 16," she said.
Kuliš has managed 17 goals in 12 second-tier games for Potsdam's reserves this season and in December made her Frauen Bundesliga bow in a 7-0 defeat of 1. FC Lok Leipzig. "The coach wants me to get experience in the reserve team for the first year, so I usually play for them, but I am training with the first team. Potsdam have really good players, they all are internationals for Germany, Sweden or Japan. So I need to be patient and continue working hard, but my goal is to play in the first team as of next season."
Football runs in her family, with sister Monika, 16, in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Under-17 side and brother Vedran having played for the U19s, but she believes talent is spreading ever wider in women's football in her country. "We now have really good players in Bosnia, the problem is just that we are inexperienced and our league is not as competitive as it should be. But our U17s are really good and I think in five years we will have a decent side, when these players have joined the senior team."
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