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Annie sets sights on history
 Women's Football News 5 Dec 2008
Annie sets sights on history - 5 Dec 2008 - Women's Football NewsWales under-19 will be going all out to make history in the spring, as they try to become the first team ever from their country to qualify for a major women's Championships.
In September they booked their place in the Second Qualifying Round of the UEFA Under-19 Championships and they are now potentially three matches away from qualifying for next summer's Finals in Belarus.
Annie Pritchard was a member of the Wales squad which qualified from the First Phase and she told Women's Soccer Scene that they need not fear their three group opponents - France, Azerbaijan and hosts Portugal. "France are bound to be the strongest side as they have done well at this level, that should be a tough one," she admitted. "Azerbaijan are completely unknown opponents to us at the moment.
"Portugal however will be familiar as we played two warm up friendlies against them before we went to Sweden for our group matches. We won the first game 4-1 and I was involved in both of our last two goals, but we lost 3-0 in the return match and they played a completely different game from before.
"The two games have given us a good idea of what Portugal can bring against us and from the second one, we can see it won't be easy. But we know they are not unbeatable and that we can play against them."
The two friendlies have also given the Welsh squad an insight into conditions in Portugal, where the group matches will be played. "It was very hot," admits Annie. "It made training quite hard and we had to take on fluids constantly. It is likely to be very similar over there when we go in April."
The conditions were a complete contrast to the First Qualifying Round in Sweden. "It was very wet and very cold," reveals Annie. However this posed few problems to the Welsh side as they breezed through with victories in the first two games before losing to Sweden in the final match.
"We did well against Latvia and Croatia," she says. "It was really good that we made sure we qualified before the last match against Sweden, which was obviously the hardest game. Maybe we could have done better but it was the last game and we were a bit more relaxed when we played them.
"I played a lone role up front against Sweden and it was not easy playing against a very tough back four on my own, but I learnt a lot from the game. Although we lost 3-0, everyone in the team played well on the day.
"Sophie Ingle played particularly well that week, she is very calm on the ball and scored some important goals. Rachel Cullen also proved to be a very important player for us, she was very strong defensively and got in some good tackles."
As a result of their good performances in Sweden, a number of players from the squad were rewarded with call ups for the senior squad for their recent friendlies against Finland with Emma Plewa appearing in both fixtures. "It is really good to have seen other players progress," says Annie. "It shows what can be done if you play well and is a great incentive for all of us."
Annie joined West Bromwich Albion during the summer but has been frustrated so far as her progress has been halted by illness. "I got into the first team just after coming back from Sweden but was then out for six weeks with a chest infection," she recalls. 2But I have got a couple of games under my belt and am on my way back now.
"I'm enjoying myself at Albion right now, they are a well organised club and nice people. The first team are in the promotion race and really determined to get to the next level while the reserves are top of the league."
In the long term though, Annie, along with the rest of the squad, have their sights firmly set on creating history. "It would be really good if we could qualify (for Belarus) - we've come close before and it would be amazing," she says. "We can certainly do it - if we dig deep enough, we've got a chance.
"The Under-17s are also looking at qualifying for their Finals and the seniors are getting better all the time, so things are looking pretty good for Wales at all levels."

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