With the draw for the 2014 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship taking place in Oslo, we take a look at the contenders, among them three former winners and one first-time finalist.
The Red Flames return to the finals for the third time, and confidence has never been higher having taken the prized scalp of Germany on the last day of qualifying. Captain Tinne Van Den Bergh struck the only goal six minutes from time to ensure that for just the second time, the four-time champions miss the finals. Kristiaan Van Der Haegen's side will be eager to make a bigger impression than Belgium's previous finals, finishing bottom of their group in 2006 and 2011. Indeed, they have avoided defeat just once: a 0-0 draw against a strong Sweden side in 2006.
Best performance: group stage (2006, 2011)
Now in their 13th season under Mo Marley, England have reached four of the last seven finals and, with holders France and Germany absent, will be keen to add to their solitary win in 2009. They made serene progress, improving with every game in the elite round having had a bye through the initial stage. After narrow victories over Denmark and Serbia they cut loose against Finland, winning 5-0. Runners-up last season, it sealed a return to what England could be forgiven for thinking is their rightful place – only Germany can better their tally of ten final tournaments.
Best performance: winners (2009)
The Netherlands return for their fifth final tournament keen to revisit the heights of 2010 when, under Hesterine de Reus, they reached the semi-finals before bowing out unbeaten after a penalty shoot-out defeat by England. Many of the team returned for the finals 12 months later but failed to live up to expectations. This time around they steadily improved through qualifying before two goals apiece from Jeslynn Kuijpers and 16-year-old Jill Roord wrapped up a 4-1 win against Austria on the final day and a finals place for coach André Koolhof in his first attempt.
Best performance: semi-finals (2010)
Final tournament regulars Norway have consistently impressed at this level, but despite reaching three finals they are yet to engrave their name on the trophy. Jarl Torske's team, who bowed out last year despite a 5-0 victory against Sweden, have been in good shape this term, recording friendly wins against England and the United States. The last time Norway hosted this tournament – when it was still a U18 finals, in 2001 – Torske's charges reached the final.
Best performance: runners-up (2003, 2008, 2011)
Republic of Ireland
After a near miss in 2013, Ireland made the breakthrough this season and will be the 25th team to grace the final tournament. Hopes were high after an impressive showing at La Manga in the spring, beating Sweden, but injuries to key players for the elite round were a big setback. Ireland showed defensive steel to add to the attacking muscle they flexed in the qualifying round and two goals were enough – both of them brilliant individual efforts – as Dave Connell's side finished level on points with the Netherlands and advanced as best runners-up.
Best performance: have never qualified
Scotland secured their fourth tilt at the final tournament in some style, accounting for Russia and Iceland in the elite round and registering 38 goals in six qualifiers – 13 more than any other side. Zoe Ness (8 goals) and Arsenal LFC's Caroline Weir (9) were particularly prolific, though in all 11 players were on target for Gareth Evans's attack-minded side. They will travel to Norway confident of recording at least a first win in the final tournament, having lost eight of their nine group stage matches to date, the exception a 3-3 draw with Italy in 2010.
Best performance: group stage (2005, 2008, 2010)
After missing out last season, Spain return to the final tournament eager to regain the momentum built up as the only side ever-present in the latter stages between 2010 and 2012. Given a bye through the qualifying round, Pedro López guided them in the elite round with Jorge Vilda busy leading Spain to the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup final. Spain are no strangers to success at this level having instigated possibly the biggest shock in the competition's history in 2004, recovering from a 7-0 defeat by Germany to reach the final where they beat the same side 2-1.
Best performance: winners (2004)
Sweden became the seventh country to inscribe their name on the trophy in 2012 and arrive in Norway with real hope. Calle Barrling's side ended France's title defence on the last day of the elite round, Stina Blackstenius scoring the only goal – her tenth, a qualifying high – late on as Sweden became the first team in over 18 months to inflict a competitive defeat on Les Bleuettes. Sweden, runners-up to England in 2009, also eliminated the holders in qualifying in 2012, becoming the first team in the competition's history to block Germany's route to the finals.
Best performance: winners (2012)
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