Last season's UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-finalists Denmark are striking a confident note as they challenge elite round Group 6 hosts Scotland in a section also containing Iceland and, for the first time at this stage, Lithuania.
Ricky Sbragia took over from the long-serving Ross Mathie prior to this season's campaign and after a strong qualifying round they drew 1-1 with Serbia in a friendly at one of the elite round venues, Ayr, on 28 February. Among his squad is striker Islam Feruz, who first played in this competition aged 14 and having missed the qualifying round will be taking part in his third European U17 campaign. "It's a big opportunity for the lads to reach a finals tournament," Sbragia said. "Denmark seem to be the outstanding team in our group but we've also had good reports on Lithuania and Iceland, so it's going to be tough."
Qualifying round: San Marino 3-0, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1-0, Turkey 1-1 (Group 3 winners)
Key players: Islam Feruz (forward, Chelsea FC), Lewis Kidd (midfielder, Celtic FC), Stuart Urquhart (defender, Rangers FC)
Thomas Frank led Denmark to the semi-finals a year ago and believes the class of 2012 are of a similar standard. Denmark travel to Scotland having won 1-0 and draw 1-1 against Switzerland in friendlies, and Frank told UEFA.com: "We have a very talented vintage this year, a team which is very hard-working and good in possession. We are well prepared for the challenges in Scotland. We have had two fine training camps, and we have played two very good friendlies against Switzerland, one of Europe's best teams at the moment, and a team who play an extremely well organised 4-4-2 formation. Our goal is to qualify for the finals, and if we hit our peak, I believe we will succeed, but it will probably be close."
Qualifying round: Italy 4-1, Austria 2-1, Cyprus 5-1 (Group 5 winners)
Key players: Pierre Emil Højbjerg (midfielder, Brøndby IF), Jacob Dehn Andersen (defender, Randers FC), Marcus Solberg (forward, AGF Århus)
Iceland recovered from losing their first qualifying round game 5-1 to top their group, despite a negative goal difference, and having previously won the annual Nordic Cup, coach Gunnar Gudmundsson is hopeful of matching their 2006 qualification. "We respect our opponents and to reach our goal we have to get good results in three games," Gudmundsson said. "We have some experienced players who have played many youth international games, bringing more confidence to other players. These boys are determied for success and ready to work for it."
Qualifying round: Switzerland 1-5, Greece 1-0, Israel 1-0 (Group 13 winners).
Key players: Hjörtur Hermannsson (defender, Fylkir), Oliver Sigurjónsson (midfielder, AGF Århus), Orri Sigurdur Ómarsson (defender, AGF Århus), Stefán Thór Pálsson (forward, Breidablik).
Four Simonas Stankevičius goals in a 4-0 win against Armenia in their last qualifying round game took Lithuania through that stage for the first time ever at this level. In January they travelled to the Minsk tournament, involving five other elite round contenders, and came fifth after losing 2-1 to Ukraine, 1-0 to Russia and drawing 1-1 with Finland and Belarus. "It was a good experience since it was a very even tournament with tough matches to the last minute," said coach Antanas Vingilys. Most of his squad are at the Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) academy but some are now with English clubs.
Qualifying round: Serbia 0-2, Wales 0-2, Armenia 4-0 (Group 9 runners-up).
Key players: Julius Aleksandravičius (defender, LFF National Academy), Simonas Stankevičius (forward, Leicester City FC), Deimantas Petravičius (midfielder, Nottingham Forest FC).
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