UEFA European Under-17 Championship hosts Slovenia may face a daunting start to their campaign against the Netherlands, the defending champions, but coach Miloš Kostič is sure his team can still give a good account of themselves at the final tournament which begins on 4 May. With Poland and Belgium also involved in Group B, Kostič was in optimistic mood when he spoke to UEFA.com at the finals draw.
UEFA.com: What are your impressions of the draw?
Miloš Kostič: I must say the impressions are positive. If someone had asked me to draw a perfect group I would have picked more or less the same countries. I think that in this group we will have the opportunity to express our abilities, and I am confident we are capable of qualifying for the semi-finals.
UEFA.com: Slovenia qualified automatically as hosts. What does this mean in the context of the tournament?
Kostič: Certainly it is a disadvantage for us, since all the other teams had to play six tough matches to get here. In those matches their players built up the necessary experience and received positive feedback. That is certainly something in their favour. However, in the last year we have played some tough friendly matches, notably against England, France and Russia. Therefore the boys know how it is to play the best teams.
Once you are at a tournament it does not really matter how you got there. All that matters is that you are in top form on the day of the match, and I believe we are capable of making it happen throughout this tournament.
UEFA.com: Slovenia have the advantage of playing on home soil and your matches will be staged in the football-mad eastern part of the country. What kind of support are you expecting in Maribor and Lendava?
Kostič: Slovenia is a football nation, a sporting nation in general. I believe that people will be behind us in impressive numbers. That can be an important advantage, in particular when legs start getting tired and the mind is not very clear. At that moment the home crowd can be a very important factor for success or failure.
UEFA.com: What would make you a satisfied man after the championship?
Kostič: The first thing is that the players remain healthy throughout, and that we do not get any major injuries. The second thing is that at every moment we give our maximum and play football at our finest level. If that is enough to win our matches, it would of course make me even happier.
In the event that it's not enough, then we will strive to get better and to improve in our game, so we can challenge the best teams in Europe, if not now then at least in the later stages of these boys' careers. This tournament represents only an intermediate step towards the senior team, and the main goal is to prepare these boys for the future.
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