The four coaches whose sides will contest UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group A are honoured to be in Romania, but well aware that the hard work is only just beginning.
Hosts Romania open their campaign against the Czech Republic in Chiajna on Wednesday evening after the Republic of Ireland take on Greece in Buftea in the afternoon and, while every team has lofty ambitions for the next fortnight, the four coaches were keen to emphasise the importance of taking it step by step at the pre-finals press conference in Bucharest.
"These finals are a fantastic opportunity for my players," said Romania's Lucian Burchel, whose side are in the tournament for the first time having made their maiden U17 finals appearance earlier this year. "
Every team will put in a huge effort; for us, the result counts of course but first we would like to show our quality and honour the country we represent. The first target is to qualify for the semi-finals. We'll speak about the next goal if we manage that. The best of luck to all the competitors – we hope everybody will achieve their aims, but most of all us."
Romania's opening opponents the Czech Republic have not qualified since reaching the semi-finals on home soil three years ago, yet the country enjoyed success at last month's U21 finals and coach Jaroslav Hřebík is keen to build on that achievement. "Our U21s finished fourth in Denmark without perhaps playing their best so we want to play good football and enjoy ourselves – and of course go as far as possible," he said. "All the teams are very strong: Greece eliminated France, and Ireland knocked out Italy, great results, and Romania will be very powerful at home. We're prepared to fight and to do our best to win."
Paul Doolin's Ireland are ending an even longer absence from this championship – they last qualified in 2002 – and, having not conceded a goal in their three elite-round fixtures, Doolin is looking for more of the same. "It's a tough group, the four teams have all proved in the qualifying and elite rounds that they're good, but we've had a good week of preparation in Italy and all our players are available," he said. "Our aim is always the next game and Greece look a strong team, but my team is a good group – that's our strong point."
Greece's Leonidas Vokolos also pointed to Ireland's unity as their main asset, and the current coach of the 2007 runners-up has a simple ambition for his charges. "I've told the kids here that the most important thing is to enjoy the games; they'll get a lot from this tournament," said Vokolos, whose side have also been working together for the last ten days. "
Our first target is to enjoy the games and to do our best. I don't like to press my players for the result; the first thing is to give our all and the result is something you never know as it depends on a lot of things. We know how difficult it will be as all the teams are very tough but we know we must give 100% and then we will see."
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