Germany failed to reach the semi-finals last year and with a difficult group to negotiate this time, Maren Meinert knows her squad are up against it in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
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One of the shocks of the 2009 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship was Germany's elimination in the group stage. A year on, Maren Meinert's squad face another difficult task if they are to reach the last four having been drawn alongside two other former winners – defending champions England and Italy – and Scotland in Group A. With her team's opener in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a week away, Meinert spoke to UEFA.com about her squad, their rivals and Germany's prospects of claiming a fourth Women's U19 title.
UEFA.com: What is your assessment of your Group A rivals?
Maren Meinert: England are the outstanding team at U19 level.
We start against Italy and it's always uncomfortable playing against them. They are very compact in defence and have players in attack who can decide a match on their own. We will address Scotland after the Italy match.
UEFA.com: Your team are surely among the favourites, though?
Meinert: We belong to a wider circle of contenders. We have a very young team. We will not take the players born in 1991 and 1992 to the tournament, those who will participate in the [FIFA] U-20 World Cup, so I can safely say that England are favourites.
UEFA.com: No Scandinavian teams made it − is there any significance in that? Are countries like France and England on the rise?
Meinert: I don't think so. We faced Norway in the second qualifying round and they had a very good team, it was a very tough match. They were unfortunate to be drawn with Germany having won their group. Sweden pushed England all the way so I wouldn't speak of a trend; more of a bad draw and misfortune.
UEFA.com: What shape is the squad in?
Meinert: We have a very young team with lots of players born in 1992 who must quickly get up to speed with the level of play. We were very focused in the second qualifying round: every player, and the team as a whole, took a step forward.
UEFA.com: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Meinert: We defend as a unit. We have the will to run and fight for the ball, it is easy to work with a team which defends very well. We lack a real goal scorer and quality when it comes to taking our chances.
UEFA.com: Who are your key players?
Meinert: There is Valeria Kleiner, who has European Championship experience, and other older players like Turid Knaak and Marie-Louise Bagehorn. We have no injuries but, as I mentioned before, there are certain players we have decided to overlook like Dzsenifer Marozsán, who will go to the U-20 World Cup, and Alexandra Popp, who is already a senior international.
UEFA.com: What is your goal for that tournament?
I hope we can make it into the semis and then we will see what happens.
For a more in-depth look at Germany and how they qualified, click here.