The sixteenth final tournament of the UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship was the first to be staged in Northern Ireland, where the men’s equivalent had been disputed twelve years earlier. Sixteen matches were played – the additional fixture being a play-off between England and Scotland with a place at the 2018 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup at stake. This was required because France, qualified as hosts for the final tournament, created a vacancy by reaching the last four in Northern Ireland. The matches were played between August 8-20 at four venues. Ballymena, Lurgan and Portadown hosted nine games, while the remaining seven were staged at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast. Capacities ranged from 2,434 to 18,416 at the latter. The match schedule was based on four games per matchday with two rest days between each round of fixtures. All eight delegations were accommodated at a single hotel, which maximised opportunities for interchanges among players and coaches.
Although the line-up featured six former champions, only four of the teams who had disputed the previous edition in Slovakia were present in Northern Ireland, where Nordic countries were conspicuous by their absence. Curiously, those four were the teams who successfully negotiated the group phase to reach the semi-finals.
It was also agreed to use the tournament as a test-bed for the experimentation with regard to an extra substitution during extra-time and the sequence of penalty kicks during a shoot-out. However, there was no need for either innovation.
Marissa Callaghan, captain of the Northern Ireland senior team and a member of Alfie Wylie’s backroom staff, acted as ambassador for a tournament used by the Irish Football Association to encourage young girls to take up the sport. Pre-tournament promotions included the creation of a mascot – schoolgirl Eadie Fallis creating the winning design – and a further competition to decide on a name: Sweet Caroline, a favourite song among Northern Irish supporters.
Six referees from non-participating countries were selected to gain experience at the final tournament, along with eight assistant referees and two fourth officials.
UEFA’s technical observers in Northern Ireland were German coach Anja Palusevic and former England head coach, Hope Powell. Their observations have been compiled into a technical report which, in addition to providing a permanent record of the event, aims to offer useful information to coaches working at the development levels of the women’s game.