With France already assured of a place in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals, the question of who will join the 2010 champions is due to be answered when Group B reaches its climax on Monday.
In second place, and three points ahead of nearest rivals Croatia, England need only a draw to join Pierre Mankowski's side in the last four. Should they emerge victorious against the French at Kadriorg stadium in Tallinn, they would even advance as group winners.
"The objective for us – as always – is to go and try to win a football match," coach Noel Blake told UEFA.com. "I never play for a draw. We will look for a quick start because if you can begin in a good frame of mind and play at a good tempo then that will stand to you. Whatever France do, we'll deal with it while playing our own game."
England defeated France in the semi-finals en route to winning the 2010 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and although ten members of that squad are present in Estonia, Blake insists the result will have no bearing on Monday's encounter. "As far as I am concerned, that is in the past," he said. "It's a different year group and every game represents a different challenge. Although ten of our players were there that day, these are new surroundings."
Les Bleuets' passage through to the semi-finals came courtesy of victories against Serbia and Croatia, and now that they are sure of their place, coach Mankowski is readying his players for the knockout stages. "Many of my counterparts would like to be in my shoes today as they are preparing their troops for crucial matches with a lot at stake," the 60-year-old said. "We, on the other hand, are already preparing the semi-finals. Having said that, we want to get a positive result against England and secure first place in the group."
Croatia's hopes of advancing rest on beating Serbia and France overcoming England. Coach Dinko Jeličić – who has lost goalkeeper Oliver Zelenika to a knee injury – said a triumph for his side is paramount as, even if they fail to progress, they can still qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup as one of the top six sides here.
"Matches against Serbia, even if they are without importance, are always played with high energy and extra motivation," Jeličić said. "It is my duty to focus my players. I am expecting my team to play like they did in the 1-1 draw with England, while we want to get rid of the mistakes we made in our defeat by France."
Serbia will be hoping to put a thus far disappointing time in Estonia behind them with a win against Croatia that would give them third place in the group. They must try to achieve that goal without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrović, while their captain, midfielder Srdan Mijailović, is a doubt after complaining of discomfort in both knees.
"We expect to be at our best in our last game," coach Zoran Marić explained. "We have been working a lot on the psychological side of things. The players are not happy with two losses; how can they be? Their motivation now is to look to qualify Serbia for the U-20 World Cup for the first time in our history."
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