Poland topped elite round Group 2 with a 100% record, finishing above favourites Czech Republic to qualify for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for the first time in a decade. With the nation already looking forward to UEFA EURO 2012 this summer, coach Marcin Dorna is hoping his young charges can give Poland a little extra to cheer.
UEFA.com: How did you feel before the elite round? Poland were not group favourites …
Marcin Dorna: Of course we went to Luxembourg with big hopes of qualifying, but we knew we would play against top teams. Czech Republic were the main favourites as they recently played two finals in a row, so we knew it was going to be very difficult. It was a key match, the first one, and a 2-0 victory over the Czechs helped us and built up our morale. We also beat Belarus and Luxembourg and we are really proud. It is a big achievement for us. However, we hope we can still do more.
UEFA.com: So what is the aim for Poland in Slovenia?
Dorna: Every sportsman comes to win and we are no different. But we don't want to win at any price; we want to feel that we did everything we could during each game. It would be brilliant to play more than three matches in Slovenia and we will try to do so, but let's not forget our opponents. We face Netherlands, the title defenders; Belgium, an experienced team; and Slovenia, and local people always demand from the hosts to perform well.
So we know it is not going to be easy. I stress one thing: every finalist has taken a tough path. In the first round, they had to be better than two other teams, and stronger than three in the elite round. That is proof there are no weak teams in the finals.
UEFA.com: You always stress that your task is not just to win, but also to develop players for the senior national team …
Dorna: Exactly. It would be great to see some of these boys [born in] 1995 in the senior national team in a few years. A lot of current star players made their names in U17 finals, like Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fàbregas and Toni Kroos. These names can be motivation for players competing in the U17 finals.
UEFA.com: You do not like to speak about individual players, but if Mariusz Stępiński scored 24 goals in 31 matches it must prove he is a star in this team?
Dorna: Of course, from a statistical point of view, it says a lot about the skills of this player, but I am not the kind of person to say one player is more important than another. Far from it. When Stępiński can score, another player will have passed or recovered the ball. Even those that did not play in the match helped him during practice. It is a chain and every link is important.
UEFA.com: Every player in your team has a badge enscribed with a Latin saying "Honos habet onus" (Honour has its burdens). Does it help to create team spirit?
Dorna: I think so. It was a nice idea from a staff member and I approved it. It is really important to build team spirit and [the motto] helps us do so.
By the way, 2012 is a EURO year for Poland as we host the EURO finals, and thanks to our qualification it has turned out that this is double EURO year for Poland. I hope in both cases Polish fans will be proud of our performances.
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