The UEFA European Under-17 Championship has provided the first step for many future talents. Ahead of this years finals, which begin on Tuesday in Serbia, UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh speaks about the contribution of the competition.
"Just before he won the World Cup in South Africa, Iker Casillas was talking about how he had saved the penalty that decided the shoot out against Austria to win the title for Spain in 1997. In the same breath, he mentioned winning two UEFA Champions Leagues and a EURO. There's no doubt success at this level makes a lasting impact on the stars of the future.
"From a coaching perspective, it's important to remember such lasting impressions can be made. First and foremost, this is a development competition. That means results are not an obsession but, at the same time, winning mentalities can be developed. The coach has to help his players cope with intense activity and, maybe for the first time, to live together as a group for two or three weeks.
"Some of the youngsters may have shown outstanding potential in domestic competitions that are dominated by one or two teams and, consequently, do not offer many demanding fixtures. They can come to this tournament and enjoy a first opportunity to meet their match and measure themselves against the best in Europe. This is often where they are seen for the first time by a wider public and come into contact with other promising talents who might become future rivals or team-mates.
"For example, in the 2004 final Karim Benzema was in the French squad and Gerard Piqué in the Spanish defence. Seven years later, they are coming face to face in Real Madrid v Barcelona. Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri were opponents that day, now they share the dressing-room at Arsenal. So, when you're watching the Under-17s, you can't help wondering how the players' paths will cross in the future – and if any of them can follow in the footsteps of Iker Casillas."
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