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Montenegro prove their worth

Formed ten months ago with just 26 eligible players, Montenegro won two from three women's U17 games in their nation's female competitive debut, to coach Zoran Mijovićꞌs pride.

The Montenegro squad
The Montenegro squad ©FSGC

Montenegro did not have a female representative side ten months ago – but this week they made their debut in UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship qualifying and ended up with two wins from three.

The country's first women's team to enter any competition made an inauspicious start, losing 15-0 to mini-tournament hosts the Netherlands. But the Dutch were to inflict similar defeats on their other first qualifying round group rivals, while two days after that first loss Montenegro overcame Ukraine 1-0, with Milica Vulić scoring the historic goal from the penalty spot just before half-time.

Then a Tamara Bojat hat-trick and Katarina Ćorić's strike gave Zoran Mijovićꞌs side a 4-1 win against Kazakhstan, though the scale of their initial defeat means they will not progress as one of the best runners-up.

"I am proud of our achievement in our first-ever appearance on the big stage," coach Mijović said. "It is a pity we didn't make it to the next stage of the competition, but there is no reason to be sad at all. The girls showed they have talent and character, which was the most important and only thing I asked from them before the tournament.

"These were their first competitive matches and many of them had never even travelled abroad before this trip to the Netherlands. You can imagine what they felt before the match against the hosts. They were so confused and a little bit scared. But, after a heavy defeat, they picked up and gave brilliant efforts against Ukraine and Kazakhstan."

It is only ten months since Mijović formed the squad, which was almost mission impossible in a country of just 620,000 people and without a tradition in women's football. "There are only 26 girls in Montenegro who are eligible to play in the U17 national team but with great help and understanding from UEFA, we got the chance to compete in a very short time.

"We started this tournament with a zero ranking, as underdogs, and no one knew what we could do. After this tournament, Montenegro are not just officially members of the UEFA women's football community, but we can be considered a very competitive and gifted team. We are not at the same level as Germany, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands, and other female 'heavyweights', but we can play on a par with most European teams.

"Six girls from this team are eligible to play in the next U17 competition, others will move to the U19 team. Our base is small, but we will continue to work hard to attract girls to play football. Nothing can be done overnight. This is a long process which must be continued, until all our squads, from U17 to senior, became regular participants in UEFA competitions. Our first appearance was encouraging and gives us extra motivation for future endeavours."