Belfast Telegraph

Uefa Women's U19 European Championship: Wylie's girls know it will be far from plain sailing in opener at Windsor Park

 

By Laure James

Spain will have had barely 24 hours in Belfast to prepare for their showpiece opener against Northern Ireland in the Uefa Women's U19 European Championship at Windsor Park tonight.

It was a case of 'mañana, mañana' for the Spanish, whose flight was cancelled thus delaying their departure until the following day, but it hasn't fazed Rojas boss Pedro López or his staff.

Assistant coach María Antonia Is said: "The players have been preparing for this tournament for the past two weeks, so the delay hasn't affected us too much.

"They're looking forward to having a good tournament and are confident of getting good results.

"(López) made the decision for the staff to come out a little earlier, so everything was prepared for the team's arrival, we think we can adapt to anything.

"Northern Ireland will not be an easy team to break down, no team will be easy to play here, but the hosts are always very strong. They have the motivation to do well and the pressure will be on us."

Northern Ireland coach Alfie Wylie agrees.

He said: "Spain will be extremely well prepared. One of their most dangerous players is Lucia Garcia, she scored 11 goals in the six games she's played during qualifying and Spain can score a lot of goals from their midfield players, they contributed 14 of their goals in qualifying.

"It will be a huge event and we want people to come out and support our team."

Alongside Spain, Germany and Scotland have also been drawn to take on Wylie's Northern Ireland girls in Group A.

Scotland boss Gareth Evans is well-versed in Northern Ireland's strengths, and worked under former Hibernian team-mate Michael O'Neill at Brechin City.

"We had a great year together when we got into the play-offs that season and after I went to Hibs to coach full-time while Michael went on to Shamrock Rovers and the rest is history," said Evans. "I will maybe catch up with him while I am over here, and reminisce about old times.

"It's been a very important time for women's football in Scotland.

"We are under no illusions that we are the overwhelming underdogs in this tournament along with Northern Ireland.

"But you have to take into consideration what we have achieved within this squad, as it is not easy to qualify for the final tournament. What (outgoing senior coach) Anna Signeul and her team have achieved for women's football in Scotland, concluded by qualifying for the senior finals in the Netherlands, has been great."

Maren Meinart, meanwhile, admits Germany are tagged as favourites.

"It seems to be that Germany are always seen as favourites, which I think is fair as we have won a lot of titles but we always respect our opposition," the Germany coach and former international and Olympic medallist said. "We haven't won this title for six years, which is a long time for us.

"They're three very different challenges, but we are glad to be here and to have qualified. Scotland can play very nice football, while Spain have pedigree in this tournament but I am glad we've got Northern Ireland because they will put up a good fight and it should be a great atmosphere."

Northern Ireland v Spain kicks off at 7pm tonight, while the tournament gets under way with Scotland v Germany (Windsor Park), Italy v England (Mourneview Park) and France v Netherlands (Ballymena Showgrounds), all at 3pm.

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