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Katie Holtham is full of anticipation for England under-19's qualifying group for the UEFA Under-19 Championships in Italy next week. England take on hosts Italy, Norway and Moldova for the right to qualify and the Bristol Rovers midfielder told Women's Soccer Scene that they are very determined to go through. "We've got such a tough group but we want to go and win it as you've got to win the group to qualify," she says. "For England not to be in Hungary would be a massive disappointment. It's come around so quickly, it doesn't seem that long ago that we beat Wales at Leeds (in the last round). Now it has come, it's about preparing right and getting it right."
Katie has not played against any of the other teams but is not expecting an easy time. "Italy are hosting it and they're going to be rough, but every team in the second stage will be pretty good to have got where they are now. It will be tough but with the quality of players we have got, we should be competing with the best."
Last month, England won 1-0 away to Poland in a friendly and Katie feels that this form can be taken into the group games. "We can take all the positives from Poland as it was such a successful trip, with so many young players making their debuts. Now it's about the job in hand and winning the group.
"The squads in all the age groups are getting stronger each year and we should have no problems if we get it right, but it's all about performing on the day and playing to our potential."
Earlier in the season, Katie had a taste of life with the senior squad as she was selected to join up for a couple of training camps. She feels that she can use this experience to help the newer players with the under-19s, whilst helping herself push towards the seniors. "It's a big ask of the more experienced players in the squad to bring the less experienced players through," she admits, "but being in these competitions is what helps you progress to the under-21s or the seniors. Long term, that is my aim, so I have got to do well in tournaments like this."
So can England win the group and qualify for Hungary? "Definitely!" is Katie's resounding reply. "The amount of preparation and fitness levels is a big thing. The players who were knocked out and missed out of the finals last year know it is such a hard feeling and you can't get over that - seeing teams on TV and knowing you should be there. Not only myself, but a lot of others have taken that into account and we don't want to have that feeling again. We want to be there and I'm sure we will be."
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