Serbia senior coach Vladimir Petrović will be a keen spectator at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in his homeland from Tuesday and the former Yugoslavia midfielder only wishes he could have had such an opportunity.
Petrović helped make the finals draw in Belgrade, matching his nation with Denmark, France and holders England. It is the first such competition organised by the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) and Petrović is delighted it is beginning.
"It is a great honour for us to organise this tournament," Petrović told UEFA.com. "Unfortunately when I was young I did not have a chance to play in a tournament like this one in my country. It means so much to all the players, and will give them so much experience. They will develop themselves on the pitch with strong battles against other opponents."
The identity of Serbia's opponents is of particular interest to Petrović, whose playing career included spells with Arsenal FC, Stade Brestois 29 and AS Nancy-Lorraine after a distinguished time at FK Crvena zvezda. "Group A is very strong and I am looking forward to all these matches," he said. "I'm glad to be able to see a game between England and France. I have played in both countries and I am interested to see what their youth players can offer today."
Last year Petrović gave a senior debut to midfielder Adem Ljajić, who starred for Serbia on their most recent U17 finals appearance, in 2008. The man that led Serbia and Montenegro to second place at the 2004 UEFA European U21 Championship, Petrović is in no doubt about the value of youth tournaments. "It is very important for us," he explained. "A national team like ours needs a source of youth national team players to come into the A team."
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