Spain may be many people's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship favourites, but coach Ángel Vilda remains cautious – if optimistic – ahead of Group B kick-off alongside Sweden, England and debutants Serbia.
England will be eager to reestablish themselves having triumphed in 2009 before failing to qualify for last summer's tournament. Coach Mo Marley, however, is under no illusions about the test that awaits in Turkey and is keen to play down expectations ahead of her team's opener against Sweden on Monday. "I don't think we can set our expectations on what has happened previously," she said. "Nobody's fooled. The players appreciate how difficult the tournament is going to be. It's a learning process and it's about how we adapt."
Sweden, meanwhile, arrive in Antalya on the crest of a wave having become the first team in the competition's history to prevent Germany reaching the finals. For coach Calle Barrling, though, the tournament is all about education. "It's very important that the players are very keen and learn new things," he said. "The word we use every day is curious. We have three opponents which are very strong sides and I think we can learn from all of them."
Winners of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship in 2010 and 2011, Spain's rich crop of talent will enter the tournament under a weight of expectation. "We have a winning tradition with this Spanish team and of course we are here to win," said Vilda. "We will do our best but we will respect all our opponents and we realise it is going to be hard work."
Much has been made of the values which embody Spanish football. A culture of patient, probing passing has set a precedent for the rest of Europe. Indeed, Vilda is a fervent believer that continuity breeds success. "We want to learn from what the men's national team have achieved and continue their tradition," he said. "We want our girls to pass to one another. Of course we want to win but we want to teach them that passing is the tradition of a Spanish team."
Serbia's road to Antalya started with an ominous 7-0 defeat by Sweden, but they quickly found their pace to secure qualification. "We are newcomers so we don't have any obligations," said coach Milan Rastavac. "Our expectations are that we continue to progress. We hope we will be able to able to recreate the level of performance from qualification and maybe go even higher. To play against the teams in this group is a real privilege for us."
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