France lifted the UEFA European Under-19 Championship on home soil last summer but travel to Slovakia for their elite round group knowing the hosts, Greece and Belarus will each pose a stern test in Group 3. Les Bleuets may be the section's predigree outfit but Greece have performed creditably at this level in the past while Belarus and Slovakia each showed their merits in the qualifying round.
Belarus have won only two of their six preparatory friendlies, defeating Moldova 2-0 and 2-1 after two losses to Belgium (both 0-1) and Israel (1-2). "I've explained to my players that I don't want different groups inside the team, we should be united," said coach Yuri Khomko. "We have some leaders but it's unity that allows us to be competitive at the highest level. That's why I'm rather optimistic."
Qualifying round: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 3-0, Czech Republic 0-3, (first in Group 5)
Key players: Artem Buloychik (midfielder, FC Dinamo Minsk), Artur Bombel (forward, Neman), Sergei Ignatovich (goalkeeper, FC Dinamo Minsk), Sergei Glebko (midfielder, FC BATE Borisov)
France claimed their second U19 title last season, five years after their first triumph, although Philippe Bergeroo's side have been in indifferent form of late despite a 1-0 win against Spain in Portugal last month, a repeat of the 2010 final. The holders have scored twice in their five friendly outings this year, losing to both Switzerland and Portugal, although they did win all three qualifying-round fixtures without conceding a goal. "The players know what they have to do reach the finals," said Bergeroo. "We've been satisfied with our preparations."
Qualifying round: San Marino 3-0, Montenegro 2-0, Austria 1-0 (first in Group 12)
Key players: Rémi Mulumba (midfielder, FC Lorient), Anthony Derouard (striker, Le Mans FC), Harry Novillo (midfielder, Olympique Lyonnais), Neeskens Kebano (midfielder, Paris Saint-Germain FC)
Runners-up in 2007, Greece have not qualified since 2008 but an unbeaten sequence of friendly results gives Leonidas Vokolos cause for optimism. "I'm very satisfied with the players' efforts," said the coach. "Our group is a tight one and it's hard to predict the outcome but I trust in our chances as we have a good team." Greece won away at Montenegro (4-3) in their last preparation match and also recorded victories against Denmark (2-0) and Switzerland (3-1).
Qualifying round: Georgia 0-1, Azerbaijan 1-0, Portugal 1-1 (second in Group 3)
Key players: Charis Mavrias (midfielder, Panathinaikos FC), Kostas Fortounis (attacking midfielder, Asteras Tripolis FC), Giannis Potouridis (defender, Olympiacos FC), Apostolos Vellios (forward, Everton FC)
Having won their qualifying group in Slovenia in the autumn, Slovakia are hopeful of capitalising on home advantage, with the elite round taking place at the National Training Centre in Senec. At February's La Manga tournament in Spain, Pavol Peráček's side beat Sweden (2-1) and Norway (1-0), losing only to Portugal (0-1) before games against Serbia (1-1, 0-1). In April Slovakia lost 2-1 and 1-0 to Belgium (1-2, 0-1), also going down 2-0 to Switzerland at the start of this month.
Qualifying round: Malta 4-0, Slovenia 1-0, Netherlands 0-2 (second in Group 9)
Key players: Patrik Le Giang (goalkeeper, MŠK Žilina), Ivan Hladík (defender, FK Senica), Michal Škvarka (midfielder, MŠK Žilina)
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