Belfast Telegraph

Home crowd can help us make the semi-final, says Northern Ireland captain

Northern Ireland v Germany, Women's Under 19 Euro Championships, Ballymena Showgrounds, Monday August 14, 7.00pm

By Laure James

Northern Ireland's fate in the UEFA Under-19 European Championship is out of their hands, as they prepare to take on Germany in their final Group A game - but their belief is stronger than ever.

After having recorded the first ever point in a women's final tournament and the first goal thanks to Louise McDaniel's converted corner against Scotland, Alfie Wylie's girls are in contention to qualify for the semi-finals, but it's an outside shot. They would have to beat Die Frauen-Mannschaft, while Scotland would also have to defeat Spain, and France would need to finish inside the top two in Group B.

Emma McMaster said their destiny has been seldom referenced, with the team preferring to concentrate on their own job rather than worry about the Scots.

"Germany have already qualified so maybe they'll rest players, but we always knew it was likely to be the toughest game we'd have in this group," the captain said.

"Everyone underestimated us but we've shown everyone we aren't just hosts and we've come here to be competitive.

"We are still trying to stay focused on our own game and not worry about what may or may not happen. It'll be a good game, and Ballymena has our favourite pitch of them all.

"It's been extended for the tournament but we usually play quite well as a team there.

"We're hoping for another big crowd. Walking out at the National Stadium to the biggest crowd there has ever been for a women's game in Northern Ireland at the opening match with Spain was just unbelievable, and we had good support at Mourneview, too.

"It was great to see we still had a good following after the first game."

Northern Ireland's narrow 2-0 defeat to the Spanish, and 1-1 draw with Gareth Evans' Scotland has left the team feeling buoyant ahead of their showpiece group finale.

"We created against Spain, and didn't give them many opportunities to score besides the two we conceded, which was disappointing but it was still a great performance.

"The moment that Louise scored was just incredible and I will never forget it. We have so many positives to take from it all."

Meanwhile, as with many other 18-year-olds, McMaster's awaiting her A-level results on Thursday - but it's far from eager anticipation. The Wellington College student admitted she only realised the big reveal was approaching as she returned from training yesterday.

Yet if Northern Ireland progress, her achievements in school will take a back seat to the team's heroics on the pitch.

"I was on the coach coming back to the hotel and it hit me, that it's results day on Thursday," she laughed.

"I was a bit stunned, but to be honest we've thought of nothing besides football since coming out here and I'll park it until after this match, to see what happens because the semi-finals will be played on Thursday.

"If we go through, my parents will collect them and keep them until after the match - we don't want any distractions."

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