Russia coach Aleksandr Shagov believes the "very talented" generation of players born in 1992 and 1993 are capable of "giving a good performance" at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Italy.
Champions in 2005, Russia scored 14 goals in six qualifiers, conceding only twice. Midfielders Anna Cholovyaga and Ksenia Veselukha netted five and four times respectively and recent displays have given Shagov, who replaced Valentin Grishin in 2007, cause for optimism. "If you look at our last 12 matches, played over a year and a half, then we have a very good goal difference," the 48-year-old told UEFA.com.
"The generation of players who were born in 1992 and 1993 is very talented," he continued. "
Last season we were unlucky in qualifying [paired with Spain and Iceland] but this year we managed to get through and played better football. This generation has the chance, maybe not to win the tournament, but at least to give a good showing."
Russia open proceedings against Italy in Group A on 30 May and Shagov is looking forward to taking on the hosts. "We've not played Italy for a long time," he said. "I think our last meeting ended 1-1 and later that season Italy became European champions. So the winner of our next clash may go all the way! On a serious note, it will be an interesting match, with teams of different styles facing each other."
Shagov has been impressed by the rate at which women's football is growing and has also noted the increasing interest of the media in recent seasons. "A few years ago you would never have imagined seeing so many people at a draw [for the final tournament]," he said, adding that many teams have made progress and closed the gap on the traditionally dominant European teams.
"One year a team can become champions and the next they do not even qualify for the finals – it's becoming the trend," he explained, referring to France's failure to qualify this season after a similar fate befell Italy two years ago.
Russia will also play Switzerland and Belgium in the group stage but Shagov admitted he would rather his side had been drawn against Germany. "Many people see their women's national teams as role models," he said of the three-time European champions at this level.
"I would have liked to have played Germany in the group stage; it would have been an interesting game. All the teams with the greatest ambition would of course like to play against Germany to see how they measure up. On the other hand I must say that Switzerland, who are in our group, have made tremendous progress over recent years."
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