Group B of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship took a very definite shape after matchday one, but it is Monday's round of fixtures which can make or break all four teams' chances of making the semi-finals.
Though Poland and the Netherlands are in pole position following their respective victories against Belgium and Slovenia, defeat for either on Monday would leave their progress in the balance. The Poles, however, have a not-so secret weapon in the form of their No9, Mariusz Stępiński, scorer of the only goal in Lendava on Friday and on the mark four times in qualifying. Despite those strikes, coach Marcin Dorna feels his whole side deserve recognition.
"The rest of them know that sometimes we will have to wait for the goal, but he can score any time, like [on Friday] after 65 minutes," said Dorna. "It does help because he is an important part of our team, but we've still got ten boys who have to win the ball, pass the ball. All the players are as important as each other."
Next to stand in Stępiński's way are Slovenia, who have been drawing on the positives of their 3-1 defeat by the holders. "Maybe it will help that we played them first so we can get our initial jitters out of the way," said coach Miloš Kostič. "The Polish team are very organised and their players can run a lot. [Against the Netherlands] we didn't have enough possession and our forwards were cut adrift. Against Poland we're going to have to fix that."
Before that, though, Belgium will look to bounce back after their profligacy cost them so dearly against Poland. "We had four or five chances but we didn't score," said coach Patrick Klinkenberg. "There is a lesson to learn as in Belgium it is like this most of the time. We know what we have to work on. We have to pull in one direction. Tomorrow's another day and anything can happen. In the [qualifying round], we also lost our first game, 2-0 against Ukraine, but we won the second and the third one. It's not finished yet."
Unfortunately for Klinkenberg and his team, the Dutch once again look a tough nut to crack, with Albert Stuivenberg, buoyed by the return from suspension of Tonny Trindade de Vilhena – scorer of two goals in last year's final – confident there is more to come.
"We've got lots to improve on after that second half [against Slovenia]. They are young boys so for them it is a new experience and we have to learn from that. I think Belgium are a strong side with attacking skills. It's up to us to show again that we are the better team."
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