Under-17s: Day Three Preview – Group Stage Finale

11 05 2009

under17day2Tuesday sees the third and final round of group fixtures in the European Under-17 Championships in Germany, and with six teams competing for three Semi-Final places, the action promises to be unmissable.

Germany have secured their place in the last four already, and Turkey are eliminated, but for everyone else it’s all to play for. We get underway at 11am CET with Group A’s fixtures, which kick off at the same time out of the interest of fairness. Switzerland surprisingly lead the way with a win and a draw from their two games and need just a single point against holders Spain to seal their place in Friday’s final four. Dany Ryser’s Swiss have already made sure of a guaranteed place in the Under-17 World Cup later this year and have no injury issues, but their opponents have lost Iker Muniain to an injury. Valencia’s Cristian Portugués has been called into the party, and coach Ginés Meléndez is looking for goals.

Over in Faucha, Italy meet France, and are the only team whose fate is not in their own hands. The Azzurri must win against Les Blues and hope Spain fail to beat the Swiss. For France, the equation is simpler. A win puts them into the Semi Finals, and a draw would be good enough if Spain fail to win. They showed strong nerve in their goalless draw with the holders and in Darnel Situ and Dennis Appiah have a rock-solid base to build on. Coach Philippe Bergeroo knows what to expect from his opponents:

“We know they are a solid team with remarkable individual talents. They may have been dominated by Spain but we should keep in mind that they had at least four genuine scoring opportunities during the game. Italy are in danger now after the loss against Switzerland meaning they have to attack. Still we also have to get points because anything can happen. We can qualify. We can be eliminated. It is the decisive game.”

Italy will be without goalkeeper Mattia Perin, who was sent off against Switzerland. Francesco Bardi will deputise.

Germany have been the outstanding team in the tournament so far, and having already booked their place for Friday, they can now have an impact on who joins them. They meet Holland, who are in the driving seat with four points from their two games, and coming into form after beating Turkey 2-1 on Saturday. The hosts are expected to keep a strong line-up for the match against the Oranje, meaning Lennart Thy will continue his return from injury, having scored against England at the weekend. The opposing number nine, Luc Castaignos of Feyenoord, is in imperious form, and is the hope of his country, even if his coach doesn’t believe we’ve seen the best of him yet:

“Luc can do much better than he has done in these two games. He is a very fast player and he is very strong when the ball is played deep. And he can also score goals.”

In Gotha, England have it all to do, but know what their task is. They must first hope that Germany beat Holland, before considering their own situation. A win over Turkey is imperative, and in the course of the two matches a goal differential of five must be reversed into the Three Lions’ favour. Coach John Peacock is clear on what must be done:

“We’ve had a long chat with the players individually and they’re a lot clearer in their minds about what needs to be done and they’re positive so I’m delighted about that. We definitely want to make sure we go out on a high, if we do go out, with World Cup qualification there ready to take. And then we’d like to get the second bit, the semi-finals, and that’s not dead and buried.”

He will be without the suspended Everton forward Jose Baxter, whilst Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jonjo Shelvey both received knocks in the match against Germany. Attacking options are however plentiful, with chances high of an all-Arsenal front like of Luke Freeman and Benik Afobe, who have been prolific at club level and hope to take it to the international stage with goals needed. Turkey welcome back Gokhan Tore from suspension and have Muhammet Demir fighting fit, scoring on Saturday after shaking off a knee injury.

You can keep track of all the day’s action on Eurosport and on UEFA.com. Eurosport are showing the following:

11am CET – Switzerland vs Spain
17.45 CET – Germany vs Holland

A full report will follow on Tuesday evening.

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