Having led Belgium into their first UEFA European Under-19 Championship since 2006 – and in impressive fashion with wins against England, Portugal and Croatia – coach Marc Van Geersom is relishing the chance to pit his wits against the best again. However, with Spain, Turkey and Serbia forming the Group B opposition, he recognises the challenge is a tough one.
UEFA.com: What do you make of the draw?
Marc van Geersom: It's very difficult for us but we're very happy to be here because it gives the boys more experience. Our main objective is always to get to the elite round and it's a bonus if we can play in the finals. Our first game is against Spain and that's a gift from God because we'll be playing against the best players in the world – that will be a big experience for our boys.
UEFA.com: What are the attributes of your squad?
We have a strong team. There is no one exceptional player but it's a team of friends and if you have a good spirit you can go a long way.
UEFA.com: Was that unity the decisive factor in qualifying?
Van Geersom: Yes, although it was also the first time we didn't have to give a player to the senior national team. In previous years there has always been a very good player who has been promoted to the senior team or the Under-21s, but this time the team stayed together from the start so we could make progress as a group. It has been good to keep the boys together. We've developed a very good spirit.
UEFA.com: What are your hopes for the tournament?
Van Geersom: Everything is possible although you can't afford a false start. Spain are the toughest opening opponents we could have, but we know the way they play – we've played them four years running in the U17s. Everybody knows the Spanish way of playing and that's something we try to copy a little, but of course they have better players than we do.
UEFA.com: What do young players get out of these tournaments?
Van Geersom: The chance to play against different styles – Spain are different from Serbia, so already that's a new experience. This season we've played against Estonia, England, Portugal and Croatia and every time it's something new for you to focus on and learn from.
UEFA.com: It's been a while since Belgium last qualified. How significant is it to reach the finals again?
Van Geersom: It's important to get to the final rounds from time to time so you can compare yourself with other teams. We can study what we have to do, develop plans and it also evolves the education of the boys. Every now and again it's important to check where you are with your development.
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