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Young guns share limelight with old masters

Published: Friday 1 April 2011, 10.21CET
Goal-crazy teens, a tiny baby, and a man nicknamed 'lightbulb head' star in UEFA.com's white-knuckle ride through the last week, as we learn which league is Europe's most competitive.

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Published: Friday 1 April 2011, 10.21CET

Young guns share limelight with old masters

Goal-crazy teens, a tiny baby, and a man nicknamed 'lightbulb head' star in UEFA.com's white-knuckle ride through the last week, as we learn which league is Europe's most competitive.

Team: France Under-17s
Patrick Gonfalone's side could well include future world and European champions, but the players who featured in Wednesday's UEFA European U17 Championship elite round success against Belarus may never experience a more dramatic victory. Level with Norway on points – but crucially two behind on goal difference – going into their final Group 6 fixture, Les Mini-Bleus went supernova in Carquefou.

Abdallah Yaisien scored four and Lenny Nangis three in a 9-0 victory – a record for the round – which helped them snatch a finals place away from Norway, who could only beat Georgia 5-0. "It would have been unfair somehow if we hadn't gone through," Gonfalone told UEFA.com.

Player: Stiliyan Petrov (Bulgaria)
Spain's Xavi Hernández also completed an international century this week, but Petrov's 100th game for Bulgaria was unprecedented for an outfield player in his home nation; only former goalkeeper and now Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) president Borislav Mihaylov (102) had passed the 100 mark before. The Aston Villa FC midfielder's first coach at PFC CSKA Sofia, Georgi 'The General' Vasilev told UEFA.com: "It was easy to see 14 years ago he had the skills to become an established international," before adding that he feels the 31-year-old has plenty more left in him. "He has had his troubles with injuries over the years, but he is a real competitor and a warrior."

Goal: Marius Štankevicius (Lithuania)
His Valencia CF team-mate Juan Mata ended up stealing the show, forcing an own goal and scoring another as Lithuania lost 3-1 to Spain in Kaunas, but Stankevičius's fifth goal for his country was a stunner. The defender met a loose, bouncing ball 25 metres from goal, with a thunderous low drive which left Iker Casillas grasping at air.

Number: 20
FC Lokomotiv Moskva midfielder Dmitri Loskov has carved out a unique niche in Russian football history this season, becoming the only player to feature in all 20 seasons since the end of the former Soviet Union. Initially a star at FC Rostselmash Rostov-na-Donu – now FC Rostov – Loskov first joined the Railway Boys in 1997 and won domestic titles in 2002 and 2004, as well as three Russian Cups.

He moved on to FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast in 2007, yet returned to take his old Lokomotiv No10 shirt three years later. "It's just nice to know that at least in one sense I am on a par with great players like Oleh Blokhin and Lev Yashin [both played in 19 Soviet Supreme League seasons]," he told UEFA.com.

Quote:
"If my son does not support the team that his father coaches, I will stop his pocket money."
Bulgaria coach Lothar Matthäus lays down the law for his son by former Miss Switzerland Lolita Moreno after being asked whether young Loris would be supporting Bulgaria or Switzerland in Saturday's 0-0 draw

Hardest league to predict: Sweden
Malmö FF are beginning their defence of the Allsvenskan crown looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Swedish titles since Djurgårdens IF in 2003. That is an unusual enough situation; out of the 53 UEFA nations' top leagues, only Cyprus with no defences since 2000, has gone longer without a side winning successive championships.

However, Sweden's USP is that six different teams – Djurgården, IF Elfsborg, IFK Göteborg, Kalmar FF, AIK Solna and Malmö – have come out on top in the last six seasons. Malmö captain Daniel Andersson hopes his side can stop this Swedish streak, telling UEFA.com: "The fact our squad is intact works in our favour. Continuity is important."

Holding the baby: Bettina Wiegmann
Gardening leave is a familiar enough concept to football coaches, but maternity leave is something of a new one. While several top female players – England's Katie Chapman and Norway's Solveig Gulbrandsen to name but two – have taken time off to have children, ex-Germany midfielder and now Women's Under-19 boss Maren Meinert may be the first coach to step out of the limelight in a UEFA competition to discover how to function on three hours' sleep a night.

The 37-year-old's former international team-mate and coaching assistant Bettina Wiegmann has taken charge of Germany's Women's U19 team while Meinert gets used to life with her first daughter Anne, born earlier this year, but as Wiegmann told UEFA.com: "I'm in constant contact with Maren Meinert and we are working hand in hand."

Match: Netherlands 5-3 Hungary
Beaten 4-0 at home by the same opponents on Friday, Hungary could be excused for not looking forward to Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2012 Group E rematch with the Netherlands. While they went down to two late Dirk Kuyt goals, Sándor Egervári's side made a hell of a game of it in Amsterdam.

They led 2-1 for a while and then levelled the scores at 3-3 with 15 minutes remaining, before Bert van Marwijk's side forged ahead to maintain their 100% qualifying record. "Hungary really went for it," Dutch goalscorer Ruud van Nistelrooy told UEFA.com admiringly. Hungary defender Pál Lázár added: "It was a crazy match. For me, this game against the Netherlands was the best of my life."

Man transformed: Jupp Heynckes
Bayer 04 Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes will replace Louis van Gaal as FC Bayern München coach in the summer, but as UEFA.com discovered, the 65-year-old is almost unrecognisable from the man who led the Bavarians to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. Once famed for his volcanic temperament – the way his cheeks flushed under pressure prompted fans to nickname him 'Osram' after a popular brand of lightbulb – he is now serene and avuncular, saying he learned a lot during a spell when his wife was seriously ill.

"I reflected on everything and it became clear to me that many things in life aren't that important," he explained. However, the head of the Bayern board, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, knows he has lost none of his edge. "If he stands in front of you and speaks, then you know the fire is still burning inside him," he said.

Fond farewell: Michał Żewłaków (Poland)
Michał Żewłaków made his 102nd and final appearance for Poland this week as the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts drew 0-0 with Greece at the home of one of his old sides, Olympiacos FC. "If it is possible for a player to fall in love with a club, then my club is definitely Olympiacos," he told UEFA.com as he reflected on his golden years. The 34-year-old defender added that having "lived away from Poland for 13 years" he was "tired, maybe not physically, but mentally", but could still look back with pride.

"You can always say you could have done more," he said. "Recently, I looked at the list of the players I had played against – including Josep Guardiola, Andoni Zubizarreta, the De Boer brothers, Rooney and Ibrahimović. I was really part of the big football world so it was not a waste of time for me."

Last updated: 07/12/13 5.31CET

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