Germany coach Anouschka Bernhard has predicted "a very hard, close game" in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-final showdown with Denmark.
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Germany boast a strong pedigree at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, winning the first two editions before losing out to Spain in 2010. With the Iberians triumphing again last year, the only nation to have taken part in every finals tournament can wrestle back overall superiority with victory this week, but gaining revenge for last year's semi-final defeat by France is not part of their agenda.
They face Denmark in the semi-finals tomorrow and coach Anouschka Bernhard is leaning on the side of caution. "We do have a great tradition here, being in every finals tournament and we want to reach the final, and this is the main priority," she said. "We know that Denmark are a team with high quality and it will be a very hard, close game." Germany's reward could be a reunion with France "but we are not seeking revenge for last year", Bernhard was quick to add. "If we do play them, then it will be with different players and revenge is not going to be on the minds of our players."
Instead, Bernhard hopes her squad will focus on the first major test in their young careers, building on what they have already achieved and gaining invaluable experience. "After this, they will go into the Under-19s so this is an examination of the work we have done with these girls," she explained. "It is very, very important for the girls' development as this is the first international title that they're trying to win and it is their first taste of other things like the stress and the spectators. It is difficult to play in a European championship."
Not as difficult as it was for Denmark to find warm-up opponents ahead of their second finals appearance. "After we qualified, we tried to meet other countries for friendlies but it was not possible so we just played our own Under-19s twice," said coach Anders Damgaard. "We have only met twice since we qualified and our last test was last week."
Damgaard is nevertheless unfazed by the prospect of meeting two-time winners Germany in the semi-finals tomorrow. "It is all about the girls' development first and foremost, but we are trying to win," he said. Germany's own preparations have been equally trialling and they resorted to scheduling games with their boys' U14 and U15 sides. "They went so and so," admitted Bernhard with a revealing grin. "We have tried to prepare as well as we can for the semi-final against Denmark."