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Austria, Sweden, Switzerland challenge Slovakia

Published: Wednesday 1 May 2013, 10.20CET
Hosts Slovakia, fellow finals debutants Sweden and neighbours Austria and 2002 champions Switzerland are in Group A – UEFA.com profiles and hears from the four contenders.
Published: Wednesday 1 May 2013, 10.20CET

Austria, Sweden, Switzerland challenge Slovakia

Hosts Slovakia, fellow finals debutants Sweden and neighbours Austria and 2002 champions Switzerland are in Group A – UEFA.com profiles and hears from the four contenders.

UEFA European Under-17 Championship hosts Slovakia are joined by fellow finals debutants Sweden and neighbours Austria and 2002 winners Switzerland in Group A from Sunday in Zilina and Dubnica nad Vahom.

UEFA.com profiles the Group A contenders – hear their thoughts by clicking on the video player above.

GROUP SCHEDULE

Slovakia
Slovakia are relishing their debut at an U17 finals as host nation, having made the elite round on seven previous occasions. Ladislav Pecko is the coach charged with leading Slovakia in their bid. "We want be successful, of course," he said. "But to be honest it's difficult to say how good my team will be at this tournament on home soil. We will see."

Friendly results in 2012/13: Austria 0-1 (a, 29/08), Germany 0-2 (n, 31/08), Croatia 3-1 (n, 02/09), Spain 2-2 (h, 02/10) & 1-0 (h, 04/10), Switzerland 0-2 (h, 06/11) & 1-3 (h, 08/11), Norway 1-2 (n, 03/02), Denmark 1-1 (n, 05/02), Poland 1-0 (n, 07/02), Israel 2-0 (a, 18/02) & 1-1 (a, 20/02), Hungary 1-0 (h, 12/03) & 0-3 (a, 14/03)

Key players
Martin Junas (FK Senica, goalkeeper), Denis Vavro (MŠK Žilina, defender), Lukáš Haraslín (ŠK Slovan Bratislava, midfielder)

UEFA European Under-17 Championship best
First finals appearance

Austria
Herman Stadler's side played all six of their qualifiers at home and took full advantage, eventually topping their elite round group with a final day 2-1 win against 2012 semi-finalists Georgia, all four sides in the section having kicked off level on three points. Austria have qualified for the first time sincee 2004 and Adrian Grbic, who partners Sascha Horvath in a strong midfield, said: "We have given everything and never lost sight of our goal. The team deserves to have made the finals."

Qualifying round: Cyprus 0-0, Faroe Islands 6-0, Switzerland 1-1 (Group 6 runners-up)

Elite round: Republic of Ireland 0-1, Serbia 1-0, Georgia 2-1 (Group 2 winners)

Key players
Adrian Grbic (midfielder, VfB Stuttgart), Sascha Horvath (midfielder, FK Austria Wien), Tobias Pellegrini (forward, FAL Linz)

Qualifying top scorer
Adrian Grbic
4

UEFA European Under-17 Championship best
Third place: 2004

Sweden
Sweden qualified in dramatic fashion, Valmir Berisha securing a last-gasp 1-1 draw with Hungary to make it on goal difference. Gentrit Citaku and Christer Lipovac are other players who established fine scoring records in qualifying, with midfielders Elias Andersson and Isak Ssewankambo, and central defender Linus Wahlqvist forming the backbone of the team. Roland Larsson has been in charge of the side since 1998, and believes this crop is as good as he has seen. "When we beat Bulgaria away last year, I started to believe that this would be possible," he said.

Qualifying round: Republic of Ireland 1-1, Romania 2-1, FYROM 4-0 (Group 10 runners-up)

Elite round: Belarus 4-1, Finland 5-0, Hungary 1-1 (Group 3 winners)

Key players
Elias Andersson (midfielder, Helsingborgs IF), Gentrit Citaku (midfielder, IFK Norrköping), Isak Ssewankambo (midfielder, Chelsea FC)

Qualifying top scorer
Valmir Berisha: 5

UEFA European Under-17 Championship best
First finals appearance

Switzerland
Switzerland won the first UEFA European U17 Championship in 2002 with the likes of Reto Ziegler, Philippe Senderos and Tranquillo Barnetta in the squad. Then, in 2009, having reached the last four of the continental finals in Germany, they travelled to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and beat the hosts 1-0 to lift the title. They last qualified in 2010, losing all three games, but their solid elite round display has given hope of a better tournament under Heinz Moser – the same coach as in Liechtenstein three years ago – who said: "We are ready."

Qualifying round: Faroe Islands 3-0, Cyprus 5-1, Austria 1-1 (Group 6 winners)

Elite round: Poland 0-0, Israel 2-1, Czech Republic 1-0 (Group 5 winners)

Key players
Nicolas Stettler (defender, FC Zürich), Eric Briner (midfielder, BSC Young Boys), Marco Trachsel (forward, Grasshopper-Club), Nicolas Hunziker (forward, FC Basel 1893)

Qualifying top scorer
Marco Trachsel, Nicolas Hunziker: 2

UEFA European Under-17 Championship best
Winners: 2002

Other honours
FIFA U-17 World Cup
Winners: 2009

Last updated: 01/05/13 9.41CET

http://www.uefa.com/under17/news/newsid=1944729.html#austria+sweden+switzerland+challenge+slovakia

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