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Pedigree sides in Group 4 contention

Published: Friday 25 May 2012, 9.55CET
Portugal and Ukraine have both been in fine friendly form while the Republic of Ireland reached last year's semi-finals and Israel are out to emulate their 1997 side as Group 4 kicks off.
Pedigree sides in Group 4 contention
Portugal had plenty of goals to celebrate in the qualifying round ©FPARAISO
Published: Friday 25 May 2012, 9.55CET

Pedigree sides in Group 4 contention

Portugal and Ukraine have both been in fine friendly form while the Republic of Ireland reached last year's semi-finals and Israel are out to emulate their 1997 side as Group 4 kicks off.

PORTUGAL
Big wins against the Faroe Islands and San Marino helped Portugal into the elite round, with Betinho scoring five goals and Cafú four. Edgar Borges' team also triumphed at the La Manga international tournament, beating Norway 1-0, and won the 30th Porto international tournament after a goalless draw against France on the competition's final day. "It was a deserved reward for our defensive attitude," said Borges. "We deservedly won the tournament as our objectives were completely achieved and we prepared well for the important elite round."

Key players
Ricardo Esgaio (defender, Sporting Clube de Portugal), João Mário (midfielder, Sporting Clube de Portugal), Cafú (midfielder, SL Benfica), Tózé (midfielder, FC Porto), Betinho (forward, Sporting Clube de Portugal)

Qualifying round
Faroe Islands 9-1, San Marino 6-0, Hungary 3-3 (first in Group 1)

UKRAINE
Champions on home soil in 2009, Ukraine have not qualified since, although they warmed up impressively with friendly wins against Denmark (5-1, 2-0) and finals hosts Estonia (2-1) before a 1-1 draw against Norway last month. Oleh Kuznetsov's side have lost Badri Akubardiia, Vitaliy Buyalskyy, Oleksandr Iermachenko and Vladyslav Kalitvintsev, but the coach is keeping calm, saying: "We can replace the injured players. All teams in our group are equal. Portugal probably have a little advantage as they're the hosts, but we're not afraid of anybody and hope to qualify for the finals."

Key players
Anton Bratkov (defender, FC Dynamo Kyiv), Vyacheslav Churko (midfielder, FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Borys Tashchy (forward, FC Dinamo Moskva)

Qualifying round
Kazakhstan 2-0, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 3-0, Switzerland 1-1 (first in Group 6)

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Paul Doolin believes his side can repeat their feat of last year and qualify for the finals – if they can avoid defeat in their opening fixture against Portugal. "The first game is clearly a big match; if we get something out of that then it will give us the confidence to come out of the group," said the coach, who guided Ireland to the semi-finals in 2010/11 and has six members of that squad in his elite round party. "I have confidence in this group of players. I know that if they play to their potential then there is no reason why they can't challenge for top spot in the group."

Key players
Samir Carruthers (midfielder, Aston Villa FC), Sean Murray (midfielder, Watford FC), Sean McDermott (goalkeeper, Arsenal FC), John O'Sullivan (forward, Blackburn Rovers FC)

Qualifying round
Bulgaria 4-1, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-2, Russia 3-1 (second in Group 2)

ISRAEL
Israel qualified for the only time in 1997, when this was still a U18 event, although Al Ohana is hopeful his class of 2012 can finally follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors, who included Yossi Benayoun. "We have belief but it will be far from easy – in fact, it will be very hard," the coach said. "Our preparations have not been ideal, but we're looking for qualification after 15 years. Israel have not been part of Europe's top level for too long."

Key players
Omri Altman (midfielder, Fulham FC), Omer Atzili (forward, Hapoel Ironi Rishon-LeZion FC), Ben Azubel (forward, Hapoel Kfar Saba FC), Omer Tchalisher (defender, Beitar Nes Tubruk FC)

Qualifying round
Czech Republic 2-1, Serbia 0-1, Lithuania 2-2 (third in Group 5)

Last updated: 25/05/12 10.02CET

Related information

http://www.uefa.com/under19/news/newsid=1795145.html#pedigree+sides+group+contention

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