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The UEFA European Under-19 Championship elite round begins today and among those teams aiming for a place in the July finals in Estonia are Belgium.
Qualifiers last season in Romania, Belgium have been given the formidable task of travelling to Italy for their group, from which only one team will make the finals, with Armenia and holders Spain also in the section. Van Geersom knows making the finals will be no easy task with their third game against the leading power at this level.
"We go to win, of course, we will see what happens in the first two games, and if we beat Spain it's something extra," Van Geersom told UEFA.com. "We know very well how Spain work, because every year we play against Spain with the U17s or with the U19s. We have also the example of the [senior] national team, there are no big differences. So the style of play is known."
A familiar figure at youth tournaments, either as a coach or technical observer, the former goalkeeper is a big believer in the value of these events. "
The gap between youth football and adult football is very big, and youth competition at international level can make the gap smaller," Van Geersom said.
"It's very important to have a good programme with the U19s. If you pass to the elite round we are always happy, and then we can work for a second semester with the group. If we can go to the finals it's something extra. But the main objective is to reach the elite round."
Belgium's biggest youth tournament success in recent years came as 2007 UEFA European U17 Championship hosts, when they reached the semi-finals and only lost on penalties to eventual winners Spain. Their inspiration in that tournament was a certain Eden Hazard, and among Van Geersom's changes this season is the playmaker's younger brother Thorgan, an RC Lens forward who scored three of Belgium's six goals in the September qualifying round.
"Now we have Thorgan, before it was Eden," Van Geersom said. "But Thorgan has the good example of his brother. He is trying to do something which his brother is good at, and that is the way he is making progress for the moment. So he could be very important for the team."
In comparing the two, Van Geersom mused: "Of course they are brothers, but they are different. The progress of Eden is much faster than that of Thorgan. On the other hand Thorgan is working harder. So that is already two big differences."
Certainly, the theme of progress is as important to Van Geersom as that of getting results ahead of his bid to reach a sixth final tournament as coach. "It's very important that we play to win. But first of all we need to play to educate them well, and if we can win with a well-educated team, then we are happy. Because you cannot win playing bad football, that's not in our vision."
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