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Jarl Torske hopes Norway can make an impact once again in this summer's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship after the three-time runners-up booked a finals spot by the skin of their teeth.
Trailing England 3-0, Norway were heading out of the competition until three goals in the last 20 minutes from Hungary against Serbia elsewhere in second qualifying round Group 4 resurrected them. The Norwegians progressed as best runners-up, though it was a humbling experience and coach Torske wants the lessons learned to underpin their challenge in Wales. A difficult Group B awaits them yet his side may be peaking at just the right time.
UEFA.com: What was your reaction to the draw?
Jarl Torske: It's a tough group, with Germany favourites. It will be a tough fight between the three Nordic countries: Finland, Sweden and ourselves. All three have kind of the same philosophy, a similar approach. Three good teams that have played each other frequently in the Under-17s and U19s, so it's very tight. They will be good games.
Prestige is always important in these Nordic games.
UEFA.com: Given your second qualifying round campaign you must be quite happy simply to be in the finals?
Torske: I am, I'm a bit relieved actually. We had two very good games against Hungary [7-0] and Serbia [5-2], and ultimately that put us through because we scored a lot of goals and played some really, really good attacking football. Then it was more like a collapse against England [0-3].
England really came at us and we were shaken. It was a disappointment, but I think we learned a lot from that game – that if you don't have the right attitude and you meet tough international competitors, then you're in trouble. England played very well, but especially on set pieces we defended really, really bad.
UEFA.com: When did you discover you were through as the best runner-up?
Torske: It was a terrible game and with the final whistle we thought we were out. Then we got the other results and started counting the goals, and it was like, 'Okay, we're in!' We got confirmation [from UEFA] about ten, 15 minutes after the final whistle. Some years ago [in 2007] it was similar, waiting for that confirmation – but that was the next day!
UEFA.com: How strong is this Norway team?
Torske: We had a good pre-season, playing OK at La Manga [in March], with some really good displays. There are some new players emerging, young players born in '95. And we will add a couple born in '96 to the team for Wales because the U17s didn't qualify for their finals. I think we will see a good attacking Norwegian side causing another surprise.
UEFA.com: The tournament has been moved back to the end of August. What effect will that have?
Torske: It will be the middle of our [domestic] season. They have a break in July but the players will be back before Wales, playing a couple of league matches and a cup game, so it will be the perfect time of year. We played Wales in February, actually, and had two good matches against them [winning 5-0 and 4-0]. It's a nice country, nice people and the countryside is really lovely.
Norway kick off their campaign against Germany on 19 August in a repeat of the 2011 final.
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