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Serbia face Germany, Georgia, Ireland in Group 5

Published: Tuesday 25 March 2014, 8.04CET
Having had a bye to the elite round, Germany will need to hit the ground running in Serbia, with Georgia and the Republic of Ireland also aiming for the finals.
Serbia face Germany, Georgia, Ireland in Group 5
Germany received a bye through to the elite round ©
Published: Tuesday 25 March 2014, 8.04CET

Serbia face Germany, Georgia, Ireland in Group 5

Having had a bye to the elite round, Germany will need to hit the ground running in Serbia, with Georgia and the Republic of Ireland also aiming for the finals.

Having not qualified since hosting the 2011 finals, Serbia are hoping to capitalise on the momentum from last year's UEFA European Under-19 Championship victory in Lithuania. "We simply believe in our talent and our squad," said coach Branislav Nikolić, whose side have played two friendlies against each of Scotland (0-2, 1-1), Romania (3-1, 2-2), Poland (4-1, 1-2) and Slovenia (1-0, 0-0). "Our group is so strong, but I am optimistic. We've used the time between the two qualifying rounds in the best way and we're ready."

Qualifying round: Andorra 6-0, Estonia 4-1, Greece 0-0 (Group 6 winners)

Key players: Luka Jović (forward, FK Crvena zvezda), Ivan Šaponjić (forward, FK Partizan) and Matija Špoljarić (midfielder, Club Atletico de Madrid)

Last year Germany did not even qualify for the finals, although they were still seeded for the elite round and thus did not play qualifiers. Recent results have been promising: there were two 1-1 draws with Spain in November, while at February's Algarve Cup there were positive showings against Portugal (1-1), the Netherlands (4-1) and England (1-0). "In those three matches we chose attacking as well as defending set-ups to see how the team performed," said coach Christian Wück. "We have a certain plan of how we want to play and the team are ready for the next step."

Qualifying round: Bye

Key players: Benedikt Gimber (defender, FC Schalke 04), Niclas Bahn (midfielder, Hannover 96), Gedion Zelalem (midfielder, Arsenal FC), Arianit Ferati (forward, VfB Stuttgart)

After squeezing through to the elite round, Georgia impressed at a friendly tournament in Minsk. Following big wins against Kazakhstan (6-0) and Iran (8-0) they were only beaten by Lithuania in the quarter-finals on penalties. They followed up with two friendlies against Kazakhstan's U18 team (1-0 and 1-2), and a 2-0 defeat by FC Lokomotiv Tbilisi. With two recent UEFA tournaments final appearances, expectations are high, though coach Nodar Akobia remains cautious. "We will play Germany, the strongest side I have ever seen in this age group, in our first game and that will be key. If Germany beat us they would go on and easily defeat Ireland and Serbia."

Qualifying round: San Marino 3-1, Faroe Islands 2-0, Netherlands 0-1 (Group 11 runners-up)

Key players: Oto Goshadze (goalkeeper, FC Saburtalo), Nika Lashkhia (midfielder, FC Zestafoni), Giorgi Jobava (forward, AJ Auxerre)

Republic of Ireland
Despite concluding the qualifying round with a 6-0 loss to England, Tom Mohan's side had already progressed courtesy of wins against Gibraltar and Armenia, with six different players scoring the goals. Mohan has since expanded his pool of talent and Belgian-born defender Robin Walsh, on the books of RSC Anderlecht, is in the elite round squad having caught the eye in the recent 2-1 victory and 1-1 draw against Austria. "In those games we did some experimenting and used players who'd done very well," said the coach "The games were a real test for the players. A number of them came through it."

Qualifying round: Gibraltar 4-1, Armenia 2-0, England 0-6 (Group 7 runners-up)

Key players: Evan Moran (goalkeeper, West Bromwich Albion FC), Tom Holland (defender, Manchester City FC), Steven Kinsella (midfielder, Templeogue United FC)

By reporters Steffen Potter, Aleksandar Bošković, Vakhtang Bzikadze & Aidan Fitzmaurice

Last updated: 25/03/14 17.52CET

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