The England Women's Under-19 side have been handed a tough group in the draw for
The England Women's Under-19 side have been handed a tough group in the draw for this summer's UEFA U19 European Championship Finals, which will be held in Germany in July...England will face hosts and current holders Germany, to whom England lost 1-0 in the semi-finals in last year's final tournament. England will also face Italy and Sweden in the group stage between July 25-29th. The draw was made on Thursday May 8th in the host country of Germany.
Mo Marley's England squad qualified for this year's championships by way of two qualifying rounds and remain unbeaten over the 2002-03 season.
England travelled to Bulgaria for the first round in October, where they competently beat the hosts Bulgaria, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands. In the second qualifying round, hosted in Bedfordshire last month, England beat Republic of Ireland and Denmark, although a draw against Spain meant they finished second in the group on goal difference - qualifying as one of three best runners-up.
Marley, who attended the draw in Leipzig, commented: "I think most people would recognise that we had the toughest draw, as all three of the teams we are placed with came through as group winners or as champions. It will be tough, but it is an exciting challenge for the team.
"We had a tight game against Germany last year in the semi-final and it will be another good game when we meet them in our last group match. Our players have overcome their nerves of playing against the German side - of course we respect them because they have always been the dominant force at this level, but we are improving against them all the time."
England have already beaten one of the teams they lost to in last summer's championships - Denmark. Both teams had fielded very different sides to last season due to the turnaround in playing staff at this age group, with players becoming too old to be considered.
England will gain more of an idea of their championship hopes next week when they travel to Sweden for a friendly on Thursday May 15th. Sweden hosted last season's Finals, but they failed to progress from their group. Italy did not qualify for last season's tournament, so are an unknown quantity, while Germany beat France 3-1 to lift the title last term.
"We actually arranged the international with Sweden prior to the draw, but now it will be a great opportunity for us to have a look at them," added Marley. "Sweden were unfortunate to not go beyond their group last year because they were a strong team and I am led to believe that most of that team are still playing in this age group."
In the second Finals Group will be 2002 Finalists France, the Netherlands, Spain and Norway. The Final of the tournament as well as one semi-final will be broadcast live on Eurosport.
Friday 25th July
Sweden v England
Markranstadt, 6.30pm (local time)
Germany v Italy, 6.30pm
Sunday 27th July
Italy v England
Germany v Sweden, 3.00pm
Tuesday 29th July
England v Germany
Italy v Sweden, 6.00pm
Friday 1st August
Sunday 3rd August
Final - live on Eurosport
Alfred Kunze Sportpark
England girls qualify for Europe