Women's Under-17 teams gathered in Nyon for a friendly tournament this week, with associations welcoming UEFA's drive to give young players chances for further development.
UEFA's home base in Nyon hosted the latest pilot international development tournament, with the support of UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme on behalf of its 53 member national associations.
Women's Under-17 teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Scotland and Wales took part in the competition at the Colovray Stadium opposite UEFA's House of European Football, with Scotland eventually emerging as tournament winners.
The event was the latest in a series of international development tournaments for young men and women players which are being staged this spring, designed to bring much-needed experience to national teams eliminated in the earlier stages of a European championship. The young players can show off their skills in a competitive environment and learn how to adapt to playing international football.
"Clearly, when you're working with youth players, the more experience that they get internationally, the better," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. "If the four teams in Nyon hadn't had this tournament, their season would have ended much earlier than they would have hoped.
"At a very important youth development stage, the players get a competitive environment," he added. "The tournament has an edge to it – for the teams, it is like playing two semi-finals and a cup final. It's great for the associations, it's great for the girls involved and underlines that UEFA thinks about development."
The associations participating in the development tournaments have welcomed UEFA's initiative, and those in Nyon were no different. "It's a fantastic idea," said Scotland coach Pauline Hamill. "It's certainly given an opportunity for these players to develop even further."
"It's absolutely brilliant," added Wales coach Jarmo Matikainen. "It's absolutely what we need. If we don't qualify for the second round [of a championship] there's a very high risk that we don't have a proper programme for the girls. Our girls have learned so much here, because when you play international football you see the benchmarks and standards."
"The players may go to countries that they have never been to before," said Andy Roxburgh. "They have to learn to adapt to different circumstances, they are facing situations that they have never faced before. They're living in a squad, in a tournament context. That is invaluable.
"I don't think you can put a price on this," the UEFA technical director concluded. "It's experience that is invaluable, and I think that it's very much appreciated."
Further UEFA-backed international development tournaments will be held in Georgia (14–22 April), Moldova (30 April–8 May) and Lithuania (22–30 May).