The Cymru U19 squad dominated League B Group 3 in UEFA Women's U19 Championship qualifying as Nicola Anderson's team claimed three wins from their three games and scored 11 goals in the process.
“It's been absolutely fantastic,” explained Anderson to FAW.cymru as the squad returned from Andorra. “The girls are a huge credit to themselves, to their families and to their country. From start to finish they dominated in all of their performances and really showed what we have been working on since May. It was nothing more than they deserved and it was so pleasing to watch all the way through.”
The campaign began with a 3-0 win over hosts Andorra as Mary McAteer added the third following a brace from Ella Hilliard in the opening half. Both players were again on target in the second game as the side claimed an impressive 4-0 win over Moldova with Phoebie Poole scoring twice to complete the scoring and with it set up a decisive final match against Albania.
“For a lot of the players it was the first time that we had all travelled since Covid,” Anderson added. “So there were a lot of challenges we had to face once we got out there, and to settle the girls down was the most important thing in order to focus on the job at hand which was to win football matches. It made it an interesting competition from our perspective in that everything came down to that last game against Albania.”
Despite the pressure on Cymru to get a result, a hat-trick from Poole followed an early goal from Jessie Taylor, with Aglia Iliadhi adding a late consolation for Albania as the side won 4-1 to win the group. “In the first half they gave us a run for our money,” said Anderson. “But once the girls got their foothold in the game they showed what they are capable of. From then we dominated with the ball and it was just so fantastic to see so many goals being scored and to play such exciting football.
“The capabilities and the talent that we have right the way across the international pathway now for all the female players coming through means it's such an exciting time to be involved. I think it's a whole new era of football that we are seeing, and as it develops it's only going to get better and better as the months and years go on. We will take massive amounts of confidence from this camp, and it's a confidence that has been building since we first got together as a group in May.”
A change in the competition format means that qualifying now follows the UEFA Nations League with Cymru moving up to League A for the next round of qualifiers as they look to book their place at the tournament finals that will take place in the Czech Republic next year. The only time that Cymru have competed at the UEFA Women's U19 Championship finals previously was in 2013 when the side qualified as hosts.
“I think the new format is good,” explained Anderson. “It gives the girls more opportunities to play which is the most important thing from my perspective. The more international games that they can have and the more development and tournament experience they can have the better it will be for the senior team in the future. It's pleasing to see how they have grown in all aspects and how they applied the game plan fantastically well. We're really excited for whatever challenge comes next.”