Greece breezed through the UEFA European Under-19 Championship elite round, topping Group 5 with a maximum nine points and without conceding a goal. The bar of expectation has been risen for the team next week in Estonia, but coach Kostas Tsanas, a tournament debutant, is keeping is feet firmly on the ground and knows his side will need to prove their worth where it counts.
UEFA.com: How do you rate your chances?
Kostas Tsanas: Our main aim is to prove that we deservedly belong in Europe's best eight teams. We know we're a strong side, but we need to prove it on the pitch. We will achieve that if we are very focused in all matches, as we have very tough opponents in our group. We respect them, but don't fear them. We will do our best. I will consider our participation successful if we make it to the semi-finals and qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
UEFA.com: What are the assets of your team?
Tsanas: This squad is very solid and the teamwork is excellent. There are players in all positions that stand out for their personality and their individual ability, and they put their talent to the service of the team. Our team has also another characteristic: we have many players on the scorers' list, meaning that this team functions as a unit. All our players are dangerous in attack, not just the forwards. We don't rely on individual brilliance to be dangerous.
UEFA.com: Unlike previous years, the majority of your players have significant experience in Greece's Super League. Will that help?
Tsanas: Greek clubs are turning more to their youth teams to feed the senior squads. That has been very beneficial for us, as the players get acquainted with top-flight competition and tougher opponents. Their experience was evident in their performances in the elite round. This team is also experienced at international level, as many players participated at the 2010 European U17 Championship and last year's U19s.
UEFA.com: How do you rate your Group A opponents?
Tsanas: We have been drawn in a very tough group. Spain are the reigning champions and a powerful nation in youth football generally. Portugal are also regulars in the final stages of European and world championships. Estonia are hosts and will have their crowd behind them. However I am glad we have such tough rivals, as it will provide extra motivation for the players to give their all on the pitch.
UEFA.com: This will be your first tournament as coach. How do you feel?
Tsanas: Up until now I was caught up in preparing the squad and now I can say that our work is done. I am very excited by the prospect of the finals, as we will play at a very high level, and we will see how we fare. I also regard it as a personal test of my abilities and indicative of my future. It will be a very significant experience for me.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.