Slovakia are off to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games girls' football tournament in Nanjing as their Under-15 side won a four-team qualifier in Nyon.
The four invited teams met in Monday's semi-finals at the Colovray Stadium opposite UEFA's Swiss headquarters, Azerbaijan beating Israel 2-0 and Slovakia defeating Romania 7-2. And after Romania claimed third place 4-0 against Israel, Slovakia won the event 1-0 against Azerbaijan and will travel to China for the six-nation tournament from 14 to 26 August. The hosts, Namibia and Venezuela had already qualified.
In the final, the goal was scored by the best outfield player on view, Martina Šurnovská, in the 26th minute. After a bout of pressure, she turned in Lenka Kopcová's cross at the near post.
Slovakia had earlier struck the woodwork twice in a matter of seconds, and Šurnovská herself hit the post with a free-kick on the cusp of half-time. Azerbaijan were indebted to a superb display by goalkeeper Maila Curto, who stopped a late penalty from Slovakia captain Mária Mikolajová and made a string of excellent saves.
Winning coach Branislav Petrovič told UEFA.com: "
I am very proud and very happy – women's football in Slovakia needed this result. We were expecting a very hard game, we prepared for that. Of course it would have been better if we'd taken a few more of our chances, but that's football. Now we can really look forward to the Olympics!"
In the semi-finals, Azerbaijan took control in the first 15 minutes against Israel, but were being frustrated in front of goal. On 63 minutes the impressive Gizem Tenekeci rattled the crossbar and was then denied by the Israel keeper, but soon after Narmin Ismayilova was introduced and she scored with her first touch. Six minutes from time Tenekeci produced a beautiful pass which was headed in by Gultaj Mammadaliyeva for 2-0.
Romania actually scored first against Slovakia on three minutes, Loredana Popa with a brilliant solo run from her own half. Yet Slovakia's speedy Veronika Jančová soon equalised and then set up Tímea Bochinová and Šurnovská to make it 3-1 inside 18 minutes. Bochinová and Mikolajová added further Slovakia goals either side of half-time and although Popa lobbed Tamara Solárová to reduce the arrears, Jančová and Šurnovská extended the advantage.
There was the consolation of third place for Romania. Popa once again stood out with two goals and also had a cross turned into her own net by Israel's Liraz Ohana. Barbara Bartalis capped her own outstanding showing with the goal of the game from distance into the top right-hand corner.
Slovakia will now hope to emulate or better Europe's representatives in the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympics women's football tournament, bronze medallists Turkey. A boys' qualifying mini-tournament starts on Saturday in Nyon, with Iceland facing Finland and Moldova taking on Armenia for a place in Monday's decider.
Semi-final 1: Azerbaijan 2-0 Israel
Semi-final 2: Slovakia 7-2 Romania
Third-place play-off: Israel 0-4 Romania
Final: Azerbaijan 0-1 Slovakia
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