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It was perhaps the moment of the tournament so far. Natasa Andonova lifting the ball over Laetitia Philippe and into the France net from close to the centre circle not only fulfilled a pre-match promise but also underlined in stunning fashion that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have the building blocks to advance at this level.
That is certainly the opinion of the goalscoring heroine herself. Playmaker, captain and soul of the side, Andonova's memorable intervention was the hosts' only strike in Group B after coach and players alike had expressed their intent to bow out with something tangible in the 'goals for' column. They also shipped 19 in three outings, but Andonova feels their campaign can be counted a success.
"Overall I'm happy because France, the Netherlands and Spain were all better than us and what we managed to do was good," she said. "This was a new experience for us and we had the youngest team in our group, so we did well. We have to train more and we have to get more experience from playing games. We have talented girls in our team so we have room for improvement."
She and her colleagues will return to UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship action from 11 to 16 September, when they host Poland, Kazakhstan and Switzerland in the first round of qualifying for next year's finals. While the true benefits of the current tournament may not be felt for some time – given that there are still only eight women's teams in the whole country – the highly-rated No10 believes there will also be an immediate knock-on effect.
"We can be optimistic and personally I'm very optimistic," said the FK Borec schemer, who has also been capped by the senior side. "After this tournament we have the qualifiers and with this team I think we're going to win. Then, further down the line, there will be a lot more preparation put into the women's game because of this tournament. We already saw that there were a lot more journalists following us than ever before and we hope that there will soon be more teams for girls to join in Macedonia."
The future is undoubtedly bright for the 16-year-old on a personal level, with her close control very much to the fore against France and her goal confirming her reputation as a gifted striker of the ball from distance. "It was a great feeling and a great goal," she said. "It was only my second best, though. My best was when I was playing against Norway with the U17s and that was also from halfway out."
Her latest effort will likewise have piqued the interest of Europe's biggest club sides, not least since 2009/10 UEFA Women's Champions League winners 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam and runners-up Olympique Lyonnais were both said to have been tracking her before the tournament began. "That's my wish," she explained. "I want to play for Lyon or Potsdam or another big club and to play in the Champions League."
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