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Serbia stage for Group 2 contests

Published: Wednesday 5 June 2013, 9.32CET
Elite round Group 2 hosts Serbia reached the semi-finals in 2009 and 2011 although the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Switzerland have plenty of pedigree of their own.
Serbia stage for Group 2 contests
Serbia coach Ljubinko Drulović during his playing days ©Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 5 June 2013, 9.32CET

Serbia stage for Group 2 contests

Elite round Group 2 hosts Serbia reached the semi-finals in 2009 and 2011 although the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Switzerland have plenty of pedigree of their own.

Semi-finalists in 2009 and 2011, Serbia received a bye to the elite round and will look to capitalise on home soil. "This generation already missed a chance to demonstrate their qualities in the 2011 U17 finals in Serbia [fourth in their group], and now they want to show their collective strength," said Ljubinko Drulović. The head coach has overseen 15 friendlies – eight wins, two draws and five defeats – including a 3-1 defeat and a goalless draw against Belgium, a 2-1 home win against Scotland and, most recently, a 1-0 home loss to Georgia, who have since qualified for the U19 finals. "We've used these matches to make our team and spirit stronger and I'm optimistic; we respect our opponents but believe in our plan," said Drulović.

Key players: Vukan Savićević (midfielder, FK Crvena zvezda), Uroš Radaković (midfielder, Bologna FC), Dejan Meleg (forward, AFC Ajax), Uroš Đurđević (forward, FK Rad)

Qualifying round: bye

Republic of Ireland
Paul Doolin took Ireland to the semi-finals in Romania in 2011, losing 5-0 to eventual champions Spain, and believes that his current crop also have the ability to progress. "We have a balanced squad that has done well this season to remain unbeaten in seven games, so we'll be looking to qualify," said the coach, whose side rallied from 2-0 down to draw with Germany in their final qualifying round fixture. His plans have been boosted by Noe Baba's availability after injury.

Key players: Ian Lawlor (goalkeeper, Manchester City FC), Noe Baba (defender, Fulham FC), Kenneth McEvoy (midfielder, Tottenham Hotspur FC),  Sam Byrne (forward, Manchester United FC)

Qualifying round: Luxembourg 5-2, FYROM 1-0, Germany 2-2 (Group 5 runners-up)

Having claimed the final elite round place as the best third-placed side over the 12 qualifying round groups, Milan Malatinský – nephew of Anton Malatinský, after whom FC Spartak Trnava's ground is named – has a simple aim. "There is no option if you play for the national team; you have to fight," said the coach, who is hoping to use their junior side's run to the UEFA European U17 Championship semi-finals on home soil last month as inspiration. "We have a tough group, but we'll try our best; Serbia are at home, Switzerland have strong youth teams and Ireland showed their quality in drawing with Germany. I'll be happy if we achieve something."

Key players: Albert Rusnák jr (midfielder, Manchester City FC), Stanislav Lobotka (midfielder, FK AS Trenčín), Adam Zreľák (forward, MFK Ružomberok)

Qualifying round: Kazakhstan 5-0, Bosnia and Herzegovina 0-4, Norway 2-1 (Group 8 third place)

Despite surrendering the lead in a 4-3 qualifying round defeat by Scotland, Claude Ryf's team were already assured a safe passage to the next stage courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Romania and a 4-0 defeat of Armenia. "We have qualified but there is a bitter taste," said Ryf. "There's a little disappointment but that will soon fade. A new adventure starts soon and we're delighted to be involved." This year's goalless draw with Norway and a 1-0 reverse against the same opposition would have done little to alleviate any lingering concerns Ryf harboured. 

Key players: Martin Angha (defender, Arsenal FC), Michael Frey (forward, BSC Young Boys), Endogan Adili (forward, FC Basel 1893).

Qualifying round: Romania 1-1, Armenia 4-0, Scotland 3-4 (Group 9 runners-up)

Last updated: 05/06/13 10.28CET

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