Azzurrine dominate prospects

There was some great football over the 12 days and 15 matches at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in July and the team picked ten of the stand-out performers from the games in France.

Alice Parisi scored the only goal of the final
Alice Parisi scored the only goal of the final ©Sportsfile

The 2008 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in France featured some exceptional individual performances and reporters have selected their pick of ten emerging talents. Not surprisingly, champions Italy feature heavily.

Sara Penzo (Italy)
In 360 tournament minutes the Azzurrine goalkeeper was beaten only once when France's Eugénie Le Sommer rifled in an unstoppable shot. A commanding, vocal presence, she had already done more than anyone to keep the hosts at bay, making save after save before the French challenge finally dissipated. She kept a clean sheet against Norway, added another against Sweden and then, most importantly, the final itself.

Karima Benameur (France)
A tall, imposing keeper, Karima Benameur reassured her defenders with commanding performances. She made several reflex saves, although it was in racing off her line to intercept crosses and through-balls that she impressed most. Never afraid to dive at a striker's feet, the 19-year-old took a series of blows for her bravery and was off injured when Italy scored twice to eliminate the hosts.

Maren Mjelde (Norway)
Possibly a first as, 12 months after making's post-tournament list as a midfielder, the Norway captain does it again, this time as a centre-back. In unfamiliar surrounds the 18-year-old was imperious, no more so than in the semi-final against Germany. When the outgoing holders worked an opening, she was there to block; when they crossed, she rose highest. Outstanding.

Sara Gama (Italy)
Labelled one of the "best players in Europe" by her coach Corrado Corradini, the senior international was only in the Loire Valley because of a late request from the party. Handed the captain's armband she led by example, the Azzurrine's only ever-present in the starting XI she shone brightly right until the end, tackling hard and bring the ball out of defence with grace and poise.

Stefanie Mirlach (Germany)
Like Mjelde, the towering FC Bayern München youngster was converted from central midfield to the heart of the defence and impressed immensely. Class personified, Mirlach gave strikers nothing, the maturity of her performances and ability to read the game beyond her years. She was not bad going forward either, passing with poise and notching two goals for good measure.

Sophie Bradley (England)
The 2008 edition was blessed by quality centre-backs and the England skipper was no exception. Partner to the excellent Fern Whelan in Iceland the year before, she picked up where her senior partner left off. Strong in the air, it was her speed of thought and fleet of foot that particularly stood out, the Leeds United LFC defender seemingly able to outpace any attacker.

Louise Fors (Sweden)
She may still only 18, but with well over 30 appearances for Sweden U19s under her belt the AIK Fotboll winger brought much-needed experience to her gauche side. Whether out on the right or drifting infield Fors was always a danger, and showed her cool by converting the penalty that sent the Sweden through to the last four. Let down by her dismissal, however, and was sorely missed against Italy.

Alice Parisi (Italy)
The puppeteer in the Azzurrine midfield, pulling the strings as the front three made their penetrating sorties into opposition defences. Her dead-ball deliveries caused many problems but it was her incisive passing in open play that was most devastating, never more so than in the last four against Sweden when she capped a fine performance by converting a penalty. Her spot-kick in the final proved even more important.

Pamela Gueli (Italy)
A vibrant presence in the Azzurrine attack, the Torino ACF starlet came to the fore whenever it mattered. Her goal against France knocked the wind out of the hosts' sails just minutes after their hopes had been raised by Le Sommer's equaliser. The semi-final against Sweden looked similarly poised before Gueli scored the first of her two goals with an opportunistic header before half-time. She was not bad at karaoke either.

Marie Pollmann (Germany)
Kim Kulig came into the tournament with much expected of her in the Germany attack, but it was Pollmann that shone in another lean harvest for out-and-out strikers. With fine technique married to an eye for goal, the HSV Borussia Friedenstal youngster was a consistent threat, registering four times to finish top scorer in the Loire Valley.