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Pedigree sides ready for Czech challenge

Published: Wednesday 18 May 2011, 10.00CET
Group 5 is the second elite round section to get under way with hosts the Czech Republic, Russia and the Netherlands all seeking to add to their recent finals experience.
Pedigree sides ready for Czech challenge
Russia reached the finals in 2007 ©Evgeny Mokrousov/Sportarchiv
Published: Wednesday 18 May 2011, 10.00CET

Pedigree sides ready for Czech challenge

Group 5 is the second elite round section to get under way with hosts the Czech Republic, Russia and the Netherlands all seeking to add to their recent finals experience.

The second UEFA European Under-19 Championship elite round section, Group 5, features three teams with recent finals experience in hosts the Czech Republic, Russia and the Netherlands, while Israel also performed well in the previous stage.

Czech Republic
The Czechs reached the semi-finals on home soil in 2008 but have not qualified since and squeezed into the elite round as one of the two best third-placed sides in the qualifying round. Jaroslav Hřebík's team have been in decent friendly form, however, avenging a 3-2 loss to Italy with a 3-0 victory and remaining unbeaten (2-1, 0-0) in two games against Croatia in March.

"The Netherlands are the favourites; we drew 3-3 with Russia in Moscow last year and were close to victory, so I hope being at home will give us the advantage," said Hřebík, who is without star player Václav Kadlec as he prepares for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Qualifying round: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 0-1, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-0, Belarus 3-0 (third in Group 5)

Key players: Matěj Vydra (forward, Udinese Calcio), Tomáš Přikryl (forward, SK Sigma Olomouc), Tomáš Koubek (goalkeeper, FC Hradec Králové), Pavel Kadeřábek (defender, AC Sparta Praha)

Israel are unbeaten in friendly matches this year, recording two wins (1-0, 2-1) against Belarus in May and a victory and a draw (2-1, 1-1) against Hungary last month. Eli Ohana, who has guided his side past the qualifying round at the third attempt, has a squad largely based on players from Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Maccabi Haifa FC.

Qualifying round: Armenia 3-0, Lithuania 1-0, Spain 0-3 (second in Group 11)

Key players: Roy Kehat (midfielder/Forward Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC), Mounes Dabour (forward, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC), Barak Levi (goalkeeper, Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC), Shadi Shaban (midfielder, Maccabi Haifa FC)

Wim van Zwam took his side to last season's finals and the 2010/11 crop have also impressed. They drew 1-1 with France in February and swiftly atoned for a 1-0 loss against Italy on 24 March with a 3-0 defeat of England five days later, FC Twente striker Ola John scoring twice and Feyenoord's Luc Castaignos – who will join FC Internazionale Milano this summer – getting the other. "We had to improve 10% to make the next step," said Van Zwam. "The lads realised that; they wanted to push themselves more to achieve that and they succeeded. We have done ourselves a big favour. It's a compliment for the whole team."

Qualifying round: Slovenia 2-0, Malta 3-0, Slovakia 2-0 (first in Group 9)

Key players: Bruno Martins Indi (midfielder, Feyenoord), Adam Maher (midfielder, AZ Alkmaar), Oğuzhan Özyakup (midfielder, Arsenal FC), Luc Castaignos (forward, Feyenoord), Ola John (forward, FC Twente)

After leading Russia through the qualifying round, Yuri Smoliyaninov was replaced by Viacheslav Daev in January. The former Russian international defender started his spell with training camps in Turkey and in Moldova before an experimental lineup finished fourth in a four-team friendly tournament in Portugal. "We have a stronger squad today as we invited all the players we wanted to see in the team," said the 38-year-old Daev. "Everybody is fit and there's no problems with the squad. We will compete for first place."

Qualifying round: Sweden 4-2, Denmark 1-2, Ukraine 2-1 (second in Group 4)

Key players: Alexey Nikitin (defender, PFC CSKA Moskva), Emin Makhmudov (midfielder, FC Spartak Moskva), Magomed Ozdoev (midfielder, FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Oleg Shalaev (midfielder, FC Krylya Sovetov Samara)

Last updated: 18/05/11 10.44CET

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