Russia evoke memories of France shock of 2005

Russia face a stiff test to qualify from the elite round but boosted by a rich crop of players and memories of a famous triumph, coach Aleksandr Shagov is hopeful.

Aleksandr Shagov pictured in 2011 - the last time Russia reached the finals
Aleksandr Shagov pictured in 2011 - the last time Russia reached the finals ©Sportsfile

Seven UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals spots will be decided over the coming fortnight, and while some teams can be pencilled in, the likely victors from Group 3 are difficult to gauge. France are slender favourites but, Aleksandr Shagov warns, his Russia side will pose a huge test – not to mention Iceland and Romania, recent finals contenders both.

"This is a very interesting young generation: [the players born in] '95, '96, '97 are one of the most talented generations in Russian women's football history," said Shagov. "We have changed our training process over the past few years and it will be interesting to see where we are at against a team like France. We will prepare well, put in the right training and hopefully we can achieve our goals."

Russia coasted through the first qualifying round in September, scoring 15 without reply as they advanced with a 100% record. The elite round will be more of a challenge, Shagov concedes. Romania – who reached the last eight in 2012 – and two-time group stage hopefuls Iceland offer two very distinct styles but it is 2013 winners France who really excite him.

2013 final highlights: Miedema magic
2013 final highlights: Miedema magic

"I really enjoy the kind of football France played and I have a lot of respect for their player development. It is good for us to see how to play the right way. In 2015 it will be ten years since our historic finals meetings with France. We lost 4-0 in the group stage in Hungary and then we met in the final."

That final encounter provided a shock perhaps only eclipsed by Spain's stunning defeat of Germany 12 months earlier. Russia twice led in a 2-2 draw before the otherwise immaculate goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi hit the bar in the shoot-out to hand Valentin Grishin's side a famous victory. If Russia negotiate Romania on Saturday and Iceland two days later then Shagov will be keen to further evoke those memories.

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