Just 16, Natasa Andonova was swimming against the tide for much of FYROM's final tournament debut but she did so with grace, poise and, as eventual winners France discovered, some aplomb.
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Already on the radar of some of Europe's top sides, Natasa Andonova piqued the interest with her impressive defiance in what was always a losing battle. Swimming against the tide for much of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's debut at this level, she did so with grace, poise and, as eventual winners France discovered, some aplomb.
It was the moment the partisan home support had been waiting for, more out of hope than expectation. Pinned against the rocks by wave after wave of attack, FYROM had been drowned 6-0 by Spain, 7-0 against the Netherlands and were now four goals adrift of France with 25 minutes of their maiden finals remaining. It was Andonova's cue. Dispossessing a prevaricating Adeline Rousseau deep inside the hosts' half, the No10 strode forward and, spotting goalkeeper Laetitia Philippe off her line, scored from 40 metres out.
"It was a great feeling and a great goal," she said. "It was only my second best, though. My best was when I was playing against Norway with the U17s and that was from halfway." Indeed, type her name into a search engine and it will not be long before you come across a good back catalogue of exquisite long-range goals – all the more remarkable because, although already a senior international with UEFA Women's Champions League experience, Andonova is just 16.
That is why the likes of 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam and Olympique Lyonnais are both said to be tracking her progress, though she offers so much more than the odd wonder goal. Never happier than with the ball at her feet, she gave her side a much-needed outlet, keeping multiple opponents busy – the playmaker, captain and soul of the side. "I'm very optimistic about my future," she told UEFA.com. She has every reason to be.