Handed his Under-17 debut in a friendly just three weeks before the finals, Germany's Marc Stendera was a surprise late addition to the squad for Slovenia. He has quickly set about vindicating that decision, though, playing a vital role in his side's two victories so far in UEFA European U17 Championship Group A.
"My first game for the German U17s was our 2-1 friendly victory against Austria, when I scored twice," Stendera told UEFA.com. "That was the last game before the finals and I think the coach thought I could help the team do well in the tournament. So, this is a dream for me. I am enjoying it a lot."
The coach in question, Stefan Böger, must be credited with realising the job Stendera could do for the team, and his faith in the player – one of the youngest in the squad – has already been handsomely repaid. Stendera made a marked impact when he was brought on at half-time against Georgia on matchday one, and then scored the winner after being handed a starting berth against Iceland.
"I managed to score and we got a win to stay in the European Championship," he said. "It was the biggest moment of my career so far. We played a great game against Iceland and put together some good moves. We had a lot of chances, particularly in the first half. If we'd have taken more of them, things would have been easier and perhaps given us a less nervous finish. Certainly we were all very happy when the referee blew the whistle and the 80 minutes were over."
It has been a perfect start for Germany, who have clinched a semi-final place and top spot in the group ahead of their final match with France. Iceland and Georgia face off in the other game, and both will be hoping that Germany maintain a similar level against Les Bleus. Stendera for one does not think motivation will be a problem in his camp.
"We want to be professional against France," he added. "We want to win every game we play, and this one is important – France are a big team and we want to beat them."
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.