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Scotland up for Group 6 grapple

Published: Friday 21 March 2014, 9.00CET
Scotland welcome Belgium, Romania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina for Under-17 elite round Group 6 dreaming of a first finals appearance since 2008.
by Alex O'Henley, B Scholten, Paul-Daniel Zaharia & Fuad Krvavac
Scotland up for Group 6 grapple
Cristian Manea in action for Romania in qualifying ©Lysien Nurishmi
Published: Friday 21 March 2014, 9.00CET

Scotland up for Group 6 grapple

Scotland welcome Belgium, Romania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina for Under-17 elite round Group 6 dreaming of a first finals appearance since 2008.

Scotland
The hosts come into the elite round in transition, with coach Scott Booth having recently departed to take the manager's post at Stenhousemuir FC. Scottish Football Association (SFA) technical director Mark Wotte and Scott Gemmill have inherited a squad who are in good form, having beaten Serbia 2-0 in February at Rugby Park. Scotland have qualified once for the finals, in 2008, but are familiar with at least one of their elite round opponents having finished runners-up in last year's Romanian Trophy where they held the locals to a 2-2 draw.

"I think these boys have played about 25 matches together against good opposition, and it's great for them to have three really tough games to qualify for the EURO finals," Wotte told UEFA.com. "To be involved in another three games would allow our boys to challenge themselves at the highest level in Europe."

Qualifying round: Slovenia 3-1, Wales 0-0, Hungary 2-1 (Group 4 winners)

Key players: Robbie McCrorie (goalkeeper, Rangers FC), Greg Kiltie (midfielder, Kilmarnock FC), Calvin Miller (forward, Celtic FC)

Belgium
After coming runners-up in qualifying Group 13, Belgium traded 2-1 wins with England in January, before losing 2-0 and 3-0 to France in February. The challenge now is to learn from any mistakes and return to the U17 finals, where they last featured in 2012.

"We hope to be ready to put in a good performance," coach Claude Van Acker told UEFA.com. "It will be an open group with all the teams evenly matched. That can be an advantage, but it also means we will have to perform very well in all three matches, all of which could be decided by the smallest details."

Qualifying round: Bulgaria 2-0, FYROM 5-0, Poland 0-2 (Group 13 runners-up)

Key players: Nathan Leyder (defender, AFC Ajax), Marco Weymans (midfielder, PSV Eindhoven), Matthias Verreth (forward, PSV Eindhoven)

Romania
Romania have reached the finals only once since this became an U17 event, failing to win in three outings in Serbia in 2011. However, 68-cap former international Constantin Gâlcă has adopted a new approach since taking charge last year. The 42-year-old followed up Group 1 success in Albania by guiding his side to encouraging friendly results against Sweden, Serbia and club teams FC Amkar Perm and FC Dinamo Moskva.

"I know how hard it will be, but we have to qualify," said the ex-RCD Mallorca, RCD Espanyol and Villarreal CF midfielder. "We have the necessary talent so we have to believe in ourselves. If we do not believe and if we don't show confidence, why should anyone believe in us?"

Qualifying round: Albania 1-0, Finland 1-0, Belarus 2-0 (Group 1 winners)

Key players: Dragos-Ionut Nedelcu (defender, FC Viitorul Constanța), Robert Vîlceanu (midfielder, FC Steaua București), Florentin Pham (FC Juventus București)

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Contesting this stage of the competition for a fourth time represents a significant achievement for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sakib Malkočević has built on the spirit that took them through Group 5 by getting his players together in February in Citluk – not far from the Dalmatian coast – with the players enjoying the opportunity to work and play together.

"We have achieved a lot just by reaching the elite round, and it is up to us to try and make it to the finals with this group," Malkočević noted. "This generation has played 15 games together and we have only lost one – against Portugal in the qualifying round. We have a right to hope for a good result [in Scotland]."

Qualifying round: Portugal 0-2, Croatia 2-0, Montenegro 0-0 (Group 5 runners-up)

Key players: Emir Čutahija (FK Željezničar), Zinedin Mustedanagić (AC Sparta Praha), Sanjin Lelić (FC Ingolstadt 04)

Last updated: 24/03/14 11.00CET

http://www.uefa.com/under17/news/newsid=2074194.html#scotland+group+grapple

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