Montenegro's first competitive female international came almost a year ago with a 15-0 UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship qualifying defeat by the Netherlands. On Saturday, however, their senior side play their maiden top-level fixture having already proved their ability.
Five days after that Netherlands loss, Montenegro's women's U17s overcame Kazakhstan 4-1 and in March the senior team came through the FIFA Women's World Cup preliminary round unbeaten to earn a place in the forthcoming main qualifying group stage. Here their Group 6 opponents will include England, Wales and Turkey. First up, though, they travel to Belarus on Saturday before welcoming Ukraine five days later.
"We have done a lot already and now we have ten tough matches against high-quality opponents as a reward," coach Zoran Mijović said. "These games will be a good promotion of women's football in Montenegro, but also a confirmation that we have done good work in recent years."
With only seven games, four of them friendlies, under their belts, Mijović is realistic about his side's chances. "It is hard to estimate what we could do in this group," he said. "It's obvious that England are out in front, but I hope we can compete with other teams. Let's see what happens in Belarus on Saturday and then we'll have a clearer picture of our quality in comparison with the rest.
"But we are not under any pressure, because we have a very young team with an average age just over 19. So we plan to gain experience and in next few years we could be a surprise package because these girls have a lot of talent."
Adding know-how to the mix is 27-year-old forward Marija Vukčević, who scored four of their six preliminary round goals and plays for fifth-placed Serie A club Res Roma. "We have shown we have quality, but now we face much better teams and must be ready for tough challenges," Vukčević said. "We can promise that we will give our best and proudly represent our country.
"We have taken seven huge steps, from zero to matches at the highest stage. Football is not so popular with girls in our country, they like to play handball and basketball, but I hope we can be role models for them. We have a mission to show them football is a brilliant sport to play, not just to watch."
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