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Women's Football News
Hannah Keryakoplis has enjoyed a rich vein of scoring form for her country at two different levels so far this season and she is hoping to help fire Wales towards their first ever major tournament Finals in the women's game.
The 16-year-old scored five times to help Wales through to the second qualifying round in the UEFA Under-19 Championships and then went on to bag a superb eight goals as the Welsh team won their UEFA Under-17 Championship qualifying group, helping make her one of the hottest young properties around.
Hannah was first involved with the Under-19s and was part of their record 21-0 victory over Georgia in the opening game, scoring four times. "It was almost like a warm up game in some ways," Hannah told Women's Soccer Scene. "We concentrated on getting the ball wide and creating chances rather than going for individual goals and it put us in a good frame of mind for the other two games."
Next up were group hosts Slovenia and Hannah was on target as Wales won 4-2 to book their place in the next phase. "We scored the first goal right on half time," she recalls, "and after the break we played really well as a team. It was our best performance out of the three games."
Already through, Wales finished up against reigning Champions France and suffered a 5-1 defeat. "They were really good," Hannah admits. "We struggled a bit in the first half but in the second, we defended from the front and stopped them playing. It was a good experience for us and we know now how far we need to progress for the next round.
"We can get through to the Finals with the right draw, we have a strong team which is improving all the time and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Hannah then joined up with the Under-17s and continued her excellent form by scoring a hat-trick in their first match, a 4-0 victory over the Faroe Islands. She then repeated the feat in their next game against Greece, which gave her great personal satisfaction. "I was looking forward to that game because my grandfather is Greek," she smiled. "Greece were very physical and strong but we matched them pretty well in the individual battles. We watched their first game against Russia and were well prepared."
This left Wales needing a point from their final game with hosts Russia in order to qualify. "We had to work hard as they were technically very good," says Hannah. "It was a hard game but the girls did really well. We were under pressure for the first fifteen minutes and that may have been nerves kicking in. We went 1-0 down after eight minutes but I managed to equalise soon after and we settled down from there."
Hannah then put Wales 2-1 up just before half time. "I was pushed out towards the goal line by the defender but I lobbed the keeper from virtually on the line," she says. "My Dad still asks me how I did it and, even though I have seen the DVD of the game, I don't know. I managed to chip the keeper and it found the top left corner - it was a great moment and I felt that this was going to be our day.
"We defended really well in the second half and they only equalised with an injury time penalty, which I have looked at several times and still don't know what it was for. The final whistle went almost straight after the kick off and even though we won the group, We were a little disappointed as we deserved to win.
"To finish top of the group is a fantastic achievement, in fact we shocked ourselves that we could do it. We've got a good chance in the next round if we play like we did against Russia and know that, as a team, we can live up to their standards. This is the third year I have played in the Under-17s and it is the best team I have played in."
Hannah's own form could well put her in line for a call up to the senior squad but she is taking nothing for granted. "I've always dreamed of playing for Wales," she says. "I saw them play Azerbaijan and have watched them play a few times and if I do get asked, it'll be fantastic but if not, I'll just keep working hard. Some of the first team e-mailed me after the Under-17s success and encouraged me, that helps keep me going."
As well as for Wales, Hannah has been scoring goals for Liverpool reserves and making an impression with them. "I made my debut for the first team at the end of last season and have been playing for the reserves," she says. "Again, I would love to get into the squad for the Super League but I am only 16 and will keep doing my best for the team.
"I am confident with the way things are going but not overly so. I never really had belief in myself until watching DVDs of matches and seeing what I can do. We've got quality players at both levels for Wales, I am getting more opportunities to score in matches and that helps my confidence. Hopefully we can keep it going."
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