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Italy the goal as final qualifying stage begins

Twenty-four teams, including holders France, begin their second qualifying round campaigns on Thursday, with each vying for a place at this summer's finals in north-east Italy.

Holders France start their second qualifying round campaign against Denmark
Holders France start their second qualifying round campaign against Denmark ©Sportsfile

The final qualifying hurdle for the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship comes into play on Thursday when 24 countries compete in six mini-tournaments for the right to join hosts Italy at the finals.

The group winners from this second qualifying round, along with the runner-up with the best record against the first and third-placed sides in their section, will travel to the finals in Rimini from 30 May to 11 June.

As the nation with the highest coefficient, Germany were given a bye through the first qualifying round. Their bid for a fourth U19 title kicks off in Group 3 where they will face an ever-improving Iceland team as well as the final tournament hosts for 2012 and 2013, Turkey and Wales respectively.

"During qualification anything can happen, because your team can have a bad day," said Bettina Wiegmann, who is standing in for Maren Meinert in Wales with the Germany coach on maternity leave. "That's why I'm not thinking about the final tournament yet. We will be fully focused in all three games."

Holders France continue their championship defence against the Netherlands – like Germany, beaten semi-finalists last season – Denmark and Lithuania in Group 1. The side the French defeated in last summer's showpiece in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, namely England, play Norway, Croatia and Portugal in Group 4.

Elsewhere, Spain – champions in 2004 – meet Austria, Scotland and Poland, while Russia, winners a year later, take on Belgium, Finland and Serbia.

Second qualifying round (hosts in bold)
Group 1: France, Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania

Group 2: Russia, Belgium, Finland, Serbia

Group 3: Germany, Iceland, Wales, Turkey

Group 4: England, Norway, Croatia, Portugal

Group 5: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Ukraine

Group 6: Austria, Spain, Scotland, Poland