Elena Danilova was part of the Russia team who were on the end of a record 8-0 defeat by Germany in the 2004 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-final. A year later she had her revenge.
The striker made her bow in European competition aged 16 with her club FC Energy Vornezh and scored a hat-trick in the 13-0 win against ZNK Osijek that took them through to the quarter-finals, in which Danilova again struck in the 4-2 aggregate defeat by eventual champions Umeå IK. She had already been a 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup quarter-finalist and the next year was also involved in the run to the U19 semi-finals; 12 months on she scored two goals in all three of Russia's qualifiers as they earned a place in Hungary.
Russia lost 4-0 to France in their opener, but after that they hit form and Danilova could not stop scoring. First there were both Russia's goals, including a late penalty, in the 2-1 win against England, then a hat-trick as Scotland were defeated 5-0. Next up were Germany, and, in contrast to 12 months before, Russia were more than a match for their rivals, securing a 3-1 victory with another Danilova treble.
France awaited in the final, and twice Russia led − the second advantage thanks to Danilova's looping effort − only for the game to go into extra time then penalties. With Russia 4-3 down with one penalty each left, Danilova stepped up and scored. France missed their next effort and Russia prevailed in sudden death to take their first post-Soviet UEFA national-team title.
Danilova, proving she had nerve as well as talent, had totalled nine goals in the finals and 15 for the competition − both tournament records. Indeed, she stated her ambition by saying: "My goal is to be the best player in the game and become FIFA World Player of the Year at least once." Injury stalled her career after this but she remains an important player for FC Energiya Voronezh and Russia.
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