While Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway compete at the top of FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying Group 5, Albania, Portugal and Greece – like their peers in other sections – have aims other than a place in Canada.
Portugal have one win and two defeats to their name as they approach the 12 February visit of Albania, hoping at least to match their 2011 qualifying bid when they finished with 12 points after twice beating both Slovenia and Armenia – while losing all their games with Italy and Finland. Since then their most-capped player Carla Couto has bowed out while António Violante took over as coach.
Formerly in charge of men's youth national teams in Portugal – winning the 2003 UEFA European Under-17 Championship on home soil – and Kuwait, Violante spoke to UEFA.com about the women's side's realistic objectives and how he intends to integrate the players that have given Portugal unprecedented success at junior level in recent years.
UEFA.com: How would you sum up your campaign so far?
António Violante: The first match went well – we won 5-1 in Greece. Then, in the next two, we lost at home to the Netherlands 7-0, and in Belgium, 4-1. So it wasn't the start we wanted, we could have got better results in the second and third matches.
Right now our plan is to progress our A team. We will try to get better results in the future, knowing we are in a very difficult group. Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands are very strong teams, who we'll have difficulties against because they are so strong. We are not yet at the standard to be able to match those teams.
UEFA.com: What is the goal for a side like Portugal in this competition?
Violante: We would like to qualify, but our objective can't be just that. That's an objective which is too far off for us right now. We have to improve, and in a future competition – for example the next European Championship – we can try to get better results. We are aware that we are still a long way off the top teams in Europe.
UEFA.com: The UEFA Women's EURO 2017 finals will involve 16 countries. How far do you think Portugal can go?
Violante: Like I said before, we are still a long way off the best 16. We are about 25th in the UEFA rankings. We are a long way off those 16, but that doesn't stop us trying in the next qualification – trying to improve our football and trying to get near the best teams in Europe.
UEFA.com: Your women's U17s played in the European finals last year and the U19s made the semis in 2012. How important is that development to improving your own senior squad?
Violante: We think the quality of players will improve, especially because they're coming into contact with international football sooner. Our senior team already have some players who played in the  European U19 Championship in Turkey. We think we will improve, but we have to take it step by step, and not want to do everything too fast. We need to be patient, we need to let players develop.
This year, for the first time we've had a U17 national team so there's a chance for our players to experience international football sooner. We think that is an important step in their development, and also in the development of the full national team when they arrive here.
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