As he prepares Estonia for the challenge of hosting the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, the team's Dutch head coach Arno Pijpers told UEFA.com about the stern tests he expects from Greece, Portugal and Spain in Group A.
UEFA.com: Are you pleased with the draw?
Arno Pijpers: I am glad we have attractive opponents, not so glad in the way that they are very strong. Spain and Portugal in one group is a real extreme. They are two of the strongest opponents you can get. I saw Greece's results and they also did very well. Historically Spain and Portugal are extremely good teams, as I understood Greece are not bad at all too, but of course in our age group Spain are exceptional. We're in a very difficult group in a very difficult tournament.
UEFA.com: Is there any significance in all of your opponents being from southern Europe?
Pijpers: Those countries are very strong in developing players, and perhaps their physical development is a little faster. They grow up a bit faster than youngsters from northern Europe. Here, players at the age of 18, 19, 20 are growing up, but their physical development has not finished, while players from southern Europe grow up a little bit faster.
UEFA.com: Will you make special preparations now you know your opponents or have you stuck to your own plan?
Pijpers: We will go on with our plan as we will focus very much on our own style. It's important to develop the speed and quality of our game and we’ll continue our work in this way. Of course we'll analyse our opponents and use information we get about them, but firstly we'll think about ourselves.
UEFA.com: You took over in March; has the team progressed since you were appointed?
Pijpers: We played some very good matches. I am very happy with how we played away against Ukraine [1-2], we showed nice quality, but we had difficulties against Switzerland [0-4]. In the last two friendlies we played against Cyprus [1-0 and 0-0] and again we did very well, a bit less naive than in the previous matches. I am happy with that.
UEFA.com: What is your goal for the tournament?
Pijpers: It's important for me to see nice performances, but we want to get a result as well. Of course we know the reality.
Estonia is a developing country, a small country, so it's not fair to have huge aims, to say that we want to be the champions. We will focus on the quality of the game and if that is OK, there will be certain results. When you play against Spain a good result can be just if you can compete and battle with them.
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