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Group A hopefuls relish 'prestigious' occasion

The coaches of Portugal, Romania, Denmark and hosts Turkey were full of pride ahead of the start of Group A of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship.

The Group A coaches at Sunday's press conference
The Group A coaches at Sunday's press conference ©Sportsfile

The overwhelming mood in Group A was one of mutual respect, although there remained an air of intense competitiveness among the coaches, who were evidently honoured to be involved in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, which kicks off in Antalya on Monday.

Portugal pulled off one of the shocks of the second qualifying round with a 3-1 victory against Norway that paved the way for their progress to a first ever major women's final tournament. As a result, coach José Paisana expressed unwavering confidence in his group of players at Sunday's pre-tournament press conference. "We are very motivated and proud to be here; it is a very special competition," he said. "We have asked the players to give their all in each match. We have what it takes to compete and we will need to show our qualities during the group stage."

Monday's opponents, hosts Turkey, will also be taking a brave step into the unknown, but coach Taygun Erdem was adamant his side can replicate their impressive recent form. "We have had great preparation, winning six of our eight games and scoring 25 goals and conceding just ten," he said. "We have a very good structure in place. We want to balance our attacking and defensive duties and pay attention to the other teams in our group. We need to respect that and we wish everyone luck."

The former Fenerbahçe SK defender also sounded an upbeat note concerning the state of women's football in Turkey. "Our football is always evolving and we want to reflect that in the competition," he said. "Turkey is a huge country in which football is very popular. We want to raise awareness of women's football in this country and encourage young girls to play the game. This is our biggest challenge."

Romania are Group A's third newcomers to the competition. Despite having only formed a women's team in 2003, they are far from daunted, however, with an impressive qualification record giving coach Mirel Albon grounds for optimism. "It is an honour and a pleasure to be here and we want to enjoy it," said Albon. "We have some inexperienced players but we overcame Iceland and France in qualification. We want to continue this form and spring a surprise."

Denmark may be Group A's elder statesman but coach Soren Randa-Boldt played down their relative experience ahead of Monday's opener against Romania. "Experience will be important but everyone is young and nobody is going to have big experience at this stage," he said. "We have a few girls who have played in the Champions League so that could be an advantage to us. I think we have everything in our game to make the semi-finals."

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