UEFA Youth and Amateur Committee chairman Jim Boyce says he is delighted with the UEFA European Under-17 and Under-19 Championship finals this year and has predicted two fine tournaments to follow in 2007.
The U17 finals took place in Luxembourg in May, the Grand Duchy's first sole-hosted UEFA tournament, with Russia defeating the Czech Republic to lift the trophy. Two months later Poland was the venue for the U19 event and more than 15,000 fans turned up for the hosts' opener against Austria in Poznan, one third of a total of 45,000 spectators who attended the 15 matches at the finals. Spain, for the third time in five years, emerged as champions but not before a tough encounter against unexpected finalists Scotland.
Boyce told uefa.com: "I think from a youth football point of view we've had two super tournaments again. Both Luxembourg and Poland deserve the highest praise for the way they organised the tournaments. It was very nice, especially in the tournament in Poland, when Scotland - who had lost 4-0 in one of the group matches - got to the final, played Spain and gave them a tremendous game. I thought it was a super final. Spain won in the end but a lot of congratulations should go to Scotland for the performance they put up."
That Eurosport show around nine matches from each tournament live helps boost the interest in the tournament, the Irish Football Association president added. "
Once again the hosting of these tournament, the publicity and the number of people who are coming is incredible, and increasing year by year," Boyce said. "I would like to pay by compliments to Eurosport, because I think the fact that these teams are on television adds to it. Especially in Poland, there were 15,000 for the opening match."
That sets a standard for Belgium and Austria, venues for the 2007 U17 and U19 finals respectively, to match. Boyce who this month made the draw for the Elite rounds in each competition, is in no doubt they will. "This year Belgium and Austria want to made a really big success," he said. "Especially Austria, as they are staging [UEFA] EURO 2008™, so they are using it as a sort of preparatory organisation tournament."
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