Having triumphed on their UEFA European Under-17 Championship debuts, Group A newboys Slovakia and Sweden are a second victory away from a semi-final berth and qualification for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
While only the top two in each group will prolong their dream of becoming continental champions on 17 May, a top-three finish will secure a place at this autumn's global finals in the United Arab Emirates. "With three points, we're close to qualifying for the World Cup. It's not over yet, but we're breathing easier right now," Slovakia coach Ladislav Pecko told UEFA.com following Sunday's 1-0 defeat of Austria. "Everything is possible, but we want to play another balanced game."
Swedish counterpart Roland Larsson also saw his squad make a confident start with a 1-0 win against Switzerland. The outcome of the meeting with Austria in Dubnica nad Vahom on Wednesday could depend on the result of an eleventh-hour fitness test on striker Valmir Berisha, who suffered a broken nose against the Swiss.
Larsson does have Gentrit Citaku, Sweden's second top scorer in qualifying behind Berisha, back from suspension and has faith his squad can reproduce the solid display that brought them three points in Zilina on Sunday. "I believe in my team, because we have some really good players, and they battle a lot. They're really fantastic," he said.
Hermann Stadler is hopeful Valentino Lazaro and Dominik Baumgartner will recover from minor injuries as Austria seek to make amends after quickly overcoming the disappointment of their loss to Slovakia. "We tried to regenerate both physically and mentally after the defeat," Stadler, who is without the suspended Thomas Steiner, said.
"We've done that. We're very positive going into the game against Sweden. We have to be better in changing from attack to defence and get back into position quicker. We also have to be more clinical and use our opportunities better."
Stadler's upbeat message was echoed by Switzerland's Heinz Moser, whose players had a ten-pin bowling session and a walk around picture-postcard Zilina to help raise spirits after the defeat by Sweden. "The tournament has just started," said Moser. "It's annoying of course, we're disappointed – we expected more from ourselves in the first game.
"We were convinced we could make a positive start. We didn't achieve that. That means we have to keep our heads up and we still have two games to qualify for the semi-finals."
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