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"Difficult" was the watchword as Søren Randa-Boldt assessed the challenge facing Denmark at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship at the end of August – difficult, but not impossible.
A youthful Denmark team surprised even their coach by reaching last summer's finals in Turkey, advancing to the last four to equal their best performance at this level. The manner in which they qualified this time, winning all six games, suggests they can go further and boss Randa-Boldt is optimistic despite being paired with England, France and Wales in Group A.
"It's a difficult draw," he conceded. "We start against the host, Wales, and that will be a difficult game. We played them two years ago and beat them 5-0, but I know they are much better now. After that we are going to [play] the Under-17 world champions, France, and I know they are very good so that will be difficult again. Then [we] end with England so yes, difficult. But it should be difficult in a European Championship."
His youthful charges did not make it look too hard 12 months ago on their return to the latter stages after a four-year absence. They won three out of three in sweltering Antalya, all 1-0, before an Elin Rubensson-inspired Sweden, the eventual victors, sent them home in the semi-finals. All but two of that 18-strong squad are available and Randa-Boldt points out, "If an U19 squad can be called experienced, then I think that applies to us."
He added: "We are stronger [than last year]. We've got a very good team and you will see good football. We've got good players in most positions; I won't tell you where we aren't so strong! We played against England twice in January [winning one, losing the other], so we know them and then we saw them again at La Manga. It should be a good game and we have a good chance."
With France billed as favourites, the meeting with England could prove decisive. There is, of course, a recent precedent for Danish success in south Wales. Michael Laudrup – the king of Denmark according to Randa-Boldt – steered Swansea City AFC to English League Cup success last season, their first major trophy. Can Randa-Boldt follow his lead and guide Denmark to new heights?
Denmark kick off their campaign against Wales on 19 August.
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