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Wales are heading off to Slovenia this week for their UEFA Under-19 Championship First Qualifying Round group and Hannah Daley is quietly confident that they can progress to the next phase.
The Bristol Academy midfielder has stepped up to this age group for the first time and she told Women's Soccer Scene that she can't wait for the experience. "I am really looking forward to playing competitively for the Under-19s for the first time," she said. "Being in the squad for this trip means everything to me as it has always been a dream of mine to play for Wales women's football team at any level, especially Under-19, so I am very grateful to be in the squad!"
Hannah has represented Wales at Under-17 level but has not come up against any of their forthcoming opponents - Slovenia, Georgia and France. "I don't know much about the teams we are playing against," she admitted, "but I expect them to be of a very high standard, which will be good for me as it will give me an insight to what competitive Under-19 internationals are like, which is something I've never experienced. I did play against Portugal in a friendly last month and they were of a high standard, so I imagine the three teams will be tough and very good opposition for us to compete against."
The opposition may be unfamiliar but the Wales squad has been a fairly settled one at Under-17 and Under-19 level and also includes two full internationals in Jasmin Dutton and Sharla Passariello. "I think this will be an advantage (for us) because this means that everyone knows how everyone plays and understands which things work well in the team," says Hannah. "When we go to play against the teams in our group, Wales know what they can do to play well and be competitive and hopefully get some good results.
"Having two senior internationals in our team - Jasmin and Sharla - will help our squad a lot because they are two girls we can all aspire to be like and look up to. If any players need any advice, Jasmin and Sharla can help them because of all the experiences they have and they can also bring that senior international experience to the pitch!"
A new era is about to begin in Welsh women's football with Jarmo Matikainen taking over as manager of all three Welsh teams at all levels from next month and Hannah is convinced that his arrival will give the players something extra to aim for. "That will be an incentive for us all to do well and push forward, because we want to do well to prove to the new manager that we are all good players who deserve to be in the Under-19 squad and that hopefully one day we can all become full internationals," she enthuses.
There is also an extra aspiration for the squad, to become the first Wales women's team to qualify for a major tournament, but Hannah is not looking too far ahead. "It definitely gives our squad something to aim for," she replies, "it would be amazing to qualify for a major tournament! But first we've just got to focus on making the next round, but our squad is very capable of qualifying as we have the quality in our team to do so."
Hannah's selection for the squad is a boost not just for her but also for her family, as her older sister Katie Daley is a full international with 40 caps to her name. it is a rarity for sisters to both be internationals at any level, not just for Wales but any of the British countries, and Hannah has one clear ambition in her mind. "I would love to play alongside my sister for the Welsh senior team one day," she smiles. "It would really be an honour to play alongside Katie because I have always looked up to her and without my sister, I wouldn't be where I am today.
"Katie being a full international does act as an inspiration for me and it makes me very proud to say my sister is a full international! My sister is my role model and I've always looked up to her in many ways, especially since I started playing football when I was eight.
"Katie has always given me advice throughout my footballing career, everything I am going through now, my sister has been through so when I need advice on a certain situation or anything to do with football, Katie will always help me out so I can move forward and become a better player. I aspire to one day be as good as my sister and hopefully achieve everything she does and more."
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