Having received a bye to the elite round as one of the top three seeds, Turkey have warmed up with a series of friendlies, defeating Portugal 2-1 and 2-0 in December, before taking part in February's La Manga tournament. However they finished only third in Spain, losing to Norway and Portugal and beating Sweden, before a 1-0 friendly defeat in England. Coach Feyyaz Uçar nevertheless remains confident, saying: "Our squad have played many international games despite their age. We're fully focused on our first match against Russia; we want to finish top and reach the finals after [missing out last year]."
Key players: Salih Uçan (midfielder, Fenerbahçe SK), Okay Yokuşlu (midfielder, Kayserispor), Hakan Çalhanoğlu (midfielder, Karlsruher SC)
Qualifying round: bye
Ukraine have not featured in the finals since lifting the trophy on home soil in 2009 and have struggled this year, losing 2-0 against Germany in March before a 2-1 defeat by Greece and a 2-2 draw with finals hosts Lithuania last month. "I think the explanation for these bad results is in the psychology," said coach Yuri Morozov. "However, I'm sure I'll be able to find the right words and we will be ready for the decisive matches. We've only got one goal."
Key players: Eduard Sobol (defender, FC Shahktar Donetsk), Vladlen Yurchenko (midfielder, FC Shahktar Donetsk), Andriy Blyznychenko (midfielder, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Dmytro Khlyobas (forward, FC Dynamo Kyiv).
Qualifying round: Faroe Islands 6-0, Estonia 2-0, England 1-1 (Group 12 runners-up)
Russia's preparations began with a 3-0 win against Serbia in a friendly tournament in Portugal, but then followed 1-0 defeats against both the hosts and Georgia. Midfielder Dmitri Efremov and strikers Ruslan Bolov and Andrei Panyukov have returned to the fold having missed that tournament, however, and Vladimir Scherbak has been fine-tuning his squad at a training camp in Krasnodar ahead of the group on home soil. "Our group is even," said the coach. "We know our opponents' capabilities very well and that is why we are extra confident. Everybody knows the aim. Most importantly, I see a great desire in the eyes of my players. The immediate future of both our players and coaching staff depends on our performances in Krasnodar."
Key players: Armen Ambartsumyan (midfielder, PFC CSKA Moskva), Andrei Panyukov (forward, FC Khimki), Ruslan Bolov (forward, FC Spartak Nalchik)
Qualifying round: Slovenia 0-0, Sweden 3-1, Wales 2-1 (Group 10 winners)
Ten years on from their sole success in this competition, Italy took their place in the elite round despite dropping points against Belarus and Belgium. A series of eye-catching friendly results, including 1-0 and 4-0 defeats of Germany and Czech Republic respectively, have given Alberigo Evani strong reason to believe. "We have quality and personality and players who know the importance of team spirit," said the 50-year-old tactician. "We want to do well in Russia and reach the finals. We believe we can do it." On the quality exhibited by forward Roberto Insigne – the younger brother of SSC Napoli's Lorenzo – Evani added: "He can be lethal when he runs at defenders."
Key players: Roberto Insigne (forward, SSC Napoli), Bryan Cristante (midfielder, AC Milan), Simone Pasa (defender, FC Internazionale Milano), Stefano Padovan (forward, Juventus), Marco Benassi (midfielder, FC Internazionale Milano).
Qualifying round: Albania 3-0, Belarus 1-1, Belgium 1-2 (Group 7 runners-up)
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