Such is the excitement in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about hosting the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship that captain Natasa Andonova could quite easily be speaking for the nation when she says "we can't wait" for the tournament to begin.
The country will stage the finals of a major UEFA event for the first time when they begin their Group B campaign against Spain, the 2004 winners, on 24 May in Skopje. If their participation alone has the hosts in a state of euphoria, then the combined "honour" of staging the eight-team event has certainly lifted anticipation to another level.
"Morale in the squad is very high," said the midfielder. "We're all very excited that for the first time we'll play against the best European teams, more so because we're in front of our supporters. We can't wait for the championship to begin.
Being hosts is a great feeling; words cannot describe how happy this makes me feel," she continued. "To me and everyone else in our team this will be a great experience; a chance to put on a good display in front of our supporters and everyone we know will be there."
As well as Spain, FYROM will meet France – champions in 2003 – and the Netherlands, the country they lost 19-0 to on their competitive debut at this level in 2004. In fact, the side have only ever emerged victorious once from 18 official Women's U19 matches, and Andonova is setting her sights accordingly. "If we were to draw a match that would be success but why not win one?" asked the FK Borec player. "We will have a good tournament".
Andonova, at 16, is indicative of the inexperienced squad coach Dobrislav Dimovski has at his disposal. "This particular team is extremely young," said Dimovski, who is also guiding the seniors through their FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign. "
Most of the girls are 16 but regardless of their age we will do our best to successfully represent our country in the championship."
In keeping with his captain, Dimovski is also reluctant to make any bold predictions, merely saying: "If we finish seventh that would be great success for us."
For a more in-depth look at FYROM and how they gear up for these finals, click here.
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