Uefa Women's U19: Wales ready to make their mark on tournament

Wales Under 19 Team. Pic: Propaganda
Back Row: Lia Lewis, Samantha Quayle, Alice Evans, Lauren Price (Captain), Ellie Leek, Angharad James. Front Row: Danielle Oates, Rhian Cleverely, Lauren Hancock, Rachel Hignett, Emma Beynon.

Wales open their Uefa Women's Under-19 Championship external-linkcampaign against Denmark at Parc y Scarlets on Monday hoping to enhance their development.

This is Wales' first Uefa tournament with eight teams including England.

"Football in Wales isn't as big as in other countries, so hopefully we can build participation in women's football," said midfielder Angharad James.

Wales will also face England and France in Group A.

Group B consists of Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden and the top two in each group will go through to the semi-finals.

Matches will be played at Carmarthen's Richmond Park, The Bridge Meadow Stadium in Haverfordwest and Stebonheath Park in Llanelli.

Despite their inexperience, Wales hope they can take their opportunity in the tournament.

"They [Wales] are competing against the best teams in Europe. Seven out of the eight teams that are competing had their senior teams in the [European] finals tournament in Sweden," said Wales spokesperson and senior team Wales striker Gwennan Harries.

"When you play against the best it brings out the best in you. There is a lot of talent there so they can more than compete with these and hopefully that will transfer across to the seniors.

"There has been a positive reaction and we are hoping that we will have good crowds as well," Harries added.

Meanwhile tournament director Rebecca Crockett sees the game for women becoming more viable as a career path.

Wales captain Jessica Fishlock has moved to the United States to join Seattle Reign FC and further her career in a nation where women's football is well loved and established.

The English Women's Super League also pays its players and Crockett notes "whereas before it was something they did for a hobby now it really can be something they do for a job" before adding "we hope more and more women will keep getting involved for the love of the game more than making money from it."

The Wales Women's senior side have had mixed results recently.

They suffered two defeats - Mexico and Portugal - and played out two draws - Hungary and Portugal - in March's Algarve Cup.

Since then they beat Scotland 2-1 in a friendly in April and two draws against Slovakia in June and Harries expressed confidence that the game in Wales was now going in the right direction.

"A lot has improved over the last couple of years. The senior [Wales] team is improving and the [Under] 19s and the 17s and the development of those players coming through is helping that," Gwennan Harries added.

Heavy rain has meant that the England v France clash on Monday (19:00 kick-off) has had to be moved from Carmarthen to Stebonheath Park.

Wales' Group A Fixtures

Wales v Denmark (Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli. Monday, 19 August, 14:00)

Wales v England (Richmond Park, Carmarthen. Thursday, 22 August, 14:00)

Wales v France (Bridge Meadow Stadium, Haverfordwest. Sunday, 25 August, 15:00)