Serbia coach Milovan Djorić is predicting two things for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship that begins on 3 May – that his nation will prove great hosts and that the team can thrive in a difficult group.
After two years of preparations, on and off the pitch, Serbia kick off their Group A campaign against Denmark in Novi Sad before facing former champions France and holders England in Indjija. Former FK Crvena zvezda player Djorić knows it is a tough prospect if Serbia are to make the U17 semi-finals for the first time.
"France and England are two top European teams, we are hosts and also a good team, and the circle was completed with Denmark," Djorić told UEFA.com. "For sure, the competition to finish in the top two and three, to reach the semi-finals and qualify for the FIFA [U-17] World Cup, will be much greater than in Group B. But I cannot be dissatisfied. The eight finalists are always the best teams and their qualities deserve respect."
England and France both have a formidable record at this level. "We played against France in a friendly during 2010 [losing 2-1]," Djorić said. "They are very, very physically strong and a well-prepared team, with all the other technical characteristics of the French football school.
"Meanwhile England eliminated Spain – from my point of view, one of the biggest candidates for the European and world titles. And they deserved that, they were better than Spain. Also, even though we are speaking about a new generation, England are holders and that means more than a little."
Before those assignments, though, comes Denmark. "That will be our first game, the match for which we have prepared for more than a year," Djorić said. "We can do so many good things in Novi Sad on 3 May – win, take three points, stop Denmark, secure a place in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico and move close to the semi-finals. A match like that will be full of chances and I expect we will take each of them."
Since the draw earlier this month, Serbia have beaten Group B contenders Germany 1-0 and also overcome Slovenia 2-1. Looking at his side, Djorić said: "They want everything, but sometimes their young ages can be the strongest opponents. But I am an optimist and I am delighted with our work over the last 18 months. Their passion for the national shirt is the most important thing and Serbian football can count on this squad."
However the team do, though, Djorić added: "We really have worked so hard on a brilliant organisation and I believe that everybody will enjoy it in Serbia, this is very important for us and I deeply believe in that."
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