"It has been a truly unique experience for me and all the players," Romania coach Mirel Albon told UEFA.com as he reflected on his team's maiden appearance at a major women's finals.
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It is not easy to remain humble and pragmatic in the face of unfulfilled dreams but Romania coach Mirel Albon did just that when he spoke to UEFA.com about his team's "unique" experience on their UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship debut in Antalya.
"It has been a truly unique experience for me and all the players. I am convinced the experience will be extremely useful in the future and in the next qualification stage," said Albon, who has collected eight championship titles and five Romanian Cups at club level. "I have learnt a lot about the women's game and what it takes to compete with top teams. This tournament is something I shall never forget."
Driven by wild ambitions, Albon is compelled to take women's football to the next level. "For me it is a pleasure and an honour to coach this team. I love working with the players," he said. "I have had opportunities to work in the men's game but it is my mission to develop women's football in order to make it stronger."
Having only formed a women's team in 2003, Romania arrived in Antalya with realistic expectations. Despite opening defeats by Portugal and Denmark, Albon sounded an upbeat note about the character of his players. "They are grateful to be here and compete with the best teams. We have improved so much," he said.
"The last time we played Denmark we lost 7-0, but in this tournament it was a lot closer and they needed a last-minute goal to beat us. The match showed how far we have come."
CFF Olimpia Cluj forward Alexandra Lunca shares Albion's contagious enthusiasm and philosophical manner despite failing to replicate her goalscoring heroics in qualifying. "It has been a wonderful experience. We have given it our all and we are always trying to improve," she said. "I love scoring goals so it has been disappointing in that respect, but I am always learning. Playing for my country is a wonderful feeling."
Romania conclude their tournament against hosts Turkey on Sunday and Albon has challenged his players to bow out with their footballing principles intact. "Against Turkey I want my players to go out and express themselves," he concluded. "From the outside, it seems like a meaningless match, but, for us, it is very important. I want us to demonstrate what good football we play. We don't want to leave Antalya pointless and we will do all we can to get a result."