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Spain set out on Under-19 defence

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 9.55CET
Spain begin their defence in elite round Group 7, where they come up against a Belgium side inspired by Eden Hazard's brother Thorgan, 2003 winners Italy and Armenia.
Spain set out on Under-19 defence
Paco Alcácer celebrates with the trophy after scoring twice in last year's final ©Sportsfile
Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 9.55CET

Spain set out on Under-19 defence

Spain begin their defence in elite round Group 7, where they come up against a Belgium side inspired by Eden Hazard's brother Thorgan, 2003 winners Italy and Armenia.

SPAIN
The defending champions boast some familiar faces in their squad. None will be more recognisable than that of Paco Alcácer, whose extra-time double against the Czech Republic in last year's showpiece earned the Rojita the title. Julen Lopetegui's side have warmed up for this mini-tournament with a 2-2 draw and 3-0 win away to Montenegro and a 4-0 triumph against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid B-team. "The guys have been working very well and with a lot of intensity," said the coach. "We are looking forward to taking on rivals who will demand that we are at our very best."

Key players
Derik Osede (midfielder, Real Madrid CF), Denis Suárez (attacking midfielder, Manchester City FC), Jesé Rodríguez (midfielder, Real Madrid CF), Paco Alcácer (forward, Valencia CF)

Qualifying round
Bye to elite round

BELGIUM
Belgium's finals appearance last season was their first since 2006 and, with star forward Thorgan Hazard – younger brother of France's player of the year Eden – still in the squad, hopes are high of another qualifying success. In February Belgium drew 0-0 with Serbia while finals hosts Estonia were beaten 6-0 and 5-1 in other friendlies. "For the first few days we'll focus on the physical aspect, to get all players on the same level," said coach Marc Van Geersom. "Then we will focus on working out what our starting team is and only after that will we look forward tactically to the first match against Italy."

Key players
Thorgan Hazard (forward, RC Lens), Jordan Lukaku (defender, RSC Anderlecht), Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (forward, AS Monaco FC), Hannes Van Der Bruggen (midfielder, KAA Gent)

Qualifying round
Wales 3-0, Slovenia 0-0, Scotland 3-1 (first in Group 8)

ARMENIA
Surprise qualifiers in 2005, Varazdat Avetisyan's side finished second in Group 10 behind Greece in the qualifying round but, having played only one warm-up friendly, the coach is anticipating a hard task in Italy. "It's obvious that our group is very hard," the coach said. "Still, with every respect to our opponents, football is one game in which either team can win so it could be us. We have a lot of potential and we'll try to convert that into a place in Estonia."

Key players
Aghvan Papikyan (midfielder, ŁKS Łódź), Hovhannes Hovhannisyan (forward, FC Pyunik), Ghukas Poghosyan (forward, FC Pyunik)

Qualifying round
Slovakia 2-1, Greece 1-2, Andorra 1-0 (second in Group 10)

ITALY
The 2003 winners are seeking to capitalise on home advantage having finished second behind Romania in their qualifying round section. The Azzurrini have since drawn 1-1 in Israel, beat Turkey 2-0 and shared a goalless draw with Hungary. "The game against Turkey was one of our best so far," said coach Alberigo Evani. "The team was well organised, aggressive and quick when there was the chance to counterattack." The former AC Milan midfielder also said he is working on his team ethic: "'Win with respect, lose with dignity' as [his former coach Arrigo] Sacchi used to repeat to us."

Key players
Mattia Valoti (forward, AC Milan), Valerio Verre (midfielder, AS Roma), Elio De Silvestro (midfielder, Juventus), Rodrigo Ely (defender, AC Milan)

Qualifying round
Romania 1-2, Sweden 1-1, Azerbaijan 2-1 (second in Group 3)

Last updated: 22/05/12 9.20CET

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