The 2013 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, Wales's first UEFA final tournament, kicks off on Monday. With the hosts gearing up to make their finals debut in Group A against Denmark, France and England, UEFA.com takes a closer look at the four teams vying for the two semi-final spots, which also guarantee passage to the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada.
A youthful Denmark team surprised even their coach by reaching last summer's finals in Turkey, advancing to the last four for the third time in four appearances in the finals. The manner in which they booked their place in Wales, managing six wins out of six over the two qualifying rounds, suggests they can go even further this time. Denmark, who won the first edition of the UEFA European Women's U18 Championship which preceded this competition, are yet to advance beyond the last four since the switch to U19 level.
Søren Randa-Boldt, coach: "If a U19 squad can be called experienced, then I think that applies to us as many of these players played last year's U19 final tournament."
Key players: Luna Gewitz (defender), Ida Karstoft (defender), Frederikke Thøgersen (winger), Camilla Andersen (forward).
Best performance: semi-finalists (2002, 2006, 2012)
Champions in 2009 and runners-up twice in the last six years, England have also endured frustration during recent seasons, failing to qualify in 2011 and exiting after the group stage last term. This time around, their qualifying bid looked to be over before it had begun when Serbia stunned them 5-4 in their opening game. A 3-0 win against Hungary kept hopes alive and another, this time against Norway, sealed progress. Nikita Parris was a constant threat, capping her efforts with a fine individual goal that made it 3-0 against the Scandinavian side.
Mo Marley, manager: "We've got a lot to prove because we haven't been outstanding the last couple of years. To respond [to the Serbia loss] with two clean sheets and two wins after that shows there's potential."
Key players: Nikita Parris (forward), Ellie Stewart (defender), Katie Zelem (midfielder), Sherry McCue (midfielder).
Best performance: winners (2009)
Les Bleuettes return to the championship stage for the first time since lifting the trophy for the second time in 2010, with hopes high of a third title triumph this summer. Last October, France won the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan and much of that team has been promoted to the U19 set-up – with eye-catching results. Given a bye through the first stage of qualifying, they negotiated a potentially thorny group with aplomb, recording victories against Belgium, Russia and Switzerland, while scoring 11 goals and shipping just one.
Gilles Eyquem, coach: "Having world champions in our team has had a positive impact on our squad. They have brought their sense of competitiveness; these girls are hungry for wins."
Key players: Griedge M'Bock Bathy (defender), Aminata Diallo (midfielder), Sandie Toletti (midfielder), Léa Declercq (forward), Claire Lavogez (midfielder).
Best performance: winners (2004, 2010)
The hosts are making their final tournament debut, having never quite been able to get over the line in seven appearances in the second qualifying round. They have come close, most notably in 2005 and 2006 with a team spearheaded by Jessica Fishlock, and 2011 when they held the mighty Germany to a brilliant 1-1 draw. They have experienced some mixed form in warm-up friendlies this season, from the high of beating England on penalties after a 1-1 draw to the low of heavy back-to-back defeats by Norway.
Jarmo Matikainen, coach: "Everyone at this level will have pressure, but to be able to perform and enjoy the tournament regardless of that pressure is the most important thing."
Key players: Angharad James (defender), Alice Evans (goalkeeper), Hannah Keryakoplis (forward), Lauren Price (defender).
Best performance: have never qualified
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