FYR Macedonia's coach and captain both expressed excitement at hosting the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship while the organisers described their satisfaction at bringing the tournament to the nation.
The draw for the finals, which took place on Friday in Skopje, pitted the hosts in Group B with two former winners − Spain and France − and the Netherlands. FYROM has never held a UEFA event and Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) general secretary Igor Klimper summed up his country's pride at staging the youth tournament, which takes place between 24 May and 5 June. "It is an honour to organise such a great event for the first time and that the Macedonian national team have a chance to participate in it," said Mr Klimper.
"It is a great honour, pleasure and duty to prove that we can be respectable hosts," he added. FFM spokesman Zoran Nikolovski said: "This is a great opportunity for women's football in Macedonia to become more popular. We hope this European Championship will allow girls to see football as more than a fan sport. We did our best to attract more viewers to the stadium by delivering tickets for free and making promotions at schools."
The hosts' coach, Dobrislav Dimovski, is aware that his team face a steep task. "The three teams I didn't want have landed in our group," he said. "We have played them before and been heavily beaten, but now we are more experienced. We are playing at home and will try to provide decent competition this time round."
Of his squad, he added: "The girls will fight, I'm leading a young generation of very talented players. We have at least five very gifted players who can stand side by side with every player in the major European countries."
Games will take place in the capital Skopje and the northern town of Kumanovo with Dimovski banking on home support to help his side's cause against top-quality opposition. "I'm sure the media will promote the championship and I truly hope many spectators will be there to support our team," he continued. "They will have the chance to follow quality women's football for the first time because only the best teams are in this championship."
The team's captain, Natasha Andonova, dubbed the "female Goran Pandev" by Dimovski, is confident her country will make their mark. "I hope we will achieve good results," she said. "We are aware of the quality of our opponents, but we will remain optimistic and will never give up. I expect at least one draw or, even better, a big win, which would mean a great deal for women's football in Macedonia."
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