The 2013 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship kicks off in Wales on Monday and Group B already looks to be a mouth-watering proposition, matching holders Sweden, four-time winners Germany, perennial finalists Norway and returning Finland. UEFA.com runs the rule over the four teams vying for the two semi-final spots, which also guarantee passage to the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
Finland's return of six victories from six qualification games, scoring 27 goals and conceding two in the process, would have been impressive for anyone – never mind for a side that had progressed to the finals just twice before and not since 2004/05. They claimed 2-1 wins against last year's runners-up Spain in the first qualifying round and 2012 semi-finalists Portugal in the second, though a few of their first-choice XI will miss the finals after being called up for UEFA Women's EURO 2013.
Marianne Miettinen, coach: "Germany are among the tournament favourites and really tough, but if we win the first two games we are already through to the semi-finals. This is a great challenge and a real chance for us."
Key players: Emma Koivisto (defender), Emilia Iskanius (defender/midfielder), Adelina Engman (forward), Tiia Peltonen (defender), Juliette Kemppi (forward).
Best performance: semi-finalists (2005)
Germany, record four-time winners of this event, missed out on the finals last season for the first time in the tournament's history, but a repeat was never in the offing as they coasted to Wales in some style. Handed a bye through the first qualifying round, they won three out of three and no other side registered more than their 16 goals or let in fewer than their one they conceded. Calle Barrling, coach of section rivals Sweden, is among those impressed, declaring: "It's one of the best Germany teams I've ever seen."
Maren Meinert, coach: "We played well in defence and scored a lot of goals – we have to build on these performances at the European Championship. It is not easy to qualify for a final tournament."
Key players: Sarah Romert (defender), Theresa Panfil (midfielder), Linda Dallmann (forward), Lina Magull (forward).
Best performance: winners (2002, 2006, 2007, 2011)
When Nikita Parris put England 3-0 up with 20 minutes of their final qualifier remaining, the death knell sounding for Norway's campaign was deafening. Although guaranteed second, their preceding 5-2 victory against Serbia did not look like it would not be enough to earn progress as the second round runners-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their group. If Hungary finished third, that would be a different matter as Norway had beaten them 7-0 – but the Hungarians trailed Serbia 3-1. Then something amazing happened: three Magyar goals in eight minutes turned that game on its head. Norway, three-time runners-up under Jarl Torske, were alive.
Jarl Torske, coach: "There are some new players emerging, young players born in '95, and we will add a couple of players born in '96 for Wales. I think we will see a good attacking Norwegian team causing another surprise."
Key players: Mia Marie Voltervik (forward), Josefine Ervik (goalkeeper), Amalie Eikeland (midfielder), Andrea Thun (forward).
Best performance: runners-up (2003, 2008, 2011)
The previous two holders' title defences ended in qualifying – and a potential hat-trick was on the cards when Calle Barrling's charges were grouped with Italy, the Netherlands and an up-and-coming Republic of Ireland side in the second qualifying round. With 17-year-old prospect Marija Banušić firing on all cylinders, though, Sweden did what was required; they needed to beat Ireland on the final day and did exactly that. Several of their 2012 winners will be back looking for more.
Calle Barrling, coach: "We're in it together, that's our tradition and in our heart. The winning goal [in the 2012 final] came from Malin Diaz, but we won that final as a team. We'll continue this tradition in Wales."
Key players: Malin Diaz (forward), Lina Hurtig (midfielder), Marija Banušić (forward), Pauline Hammarlund (forward).
Best performance: winners (2012)
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