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Belgium welcome Group 6 hopefuls

Published: Thursday 23 May 2013, 9.50CET
Belgium is the venue for the second UEFA European U19 Championship elite round section to kick off, with 2012 semi-finalists England joining the hosts, Scotland and Georgia in Group 6.
Belgium welcome Group 6 hopefuls
Georgia's team group, with new coach Georgy Tsedadze in the centre ©GFF
Published: Thursday 23 May 2013, 9.50CET

Belgium welcome Group 6 hopefuls

Belgium is the venue for the second UEFA European U19 Championship elite round section to kick off, with 2012 semi-finalists England joining the hosts, Scotland and Georgia in Group 6.

Scotland reached the elite round after obtaining maximum points from their qualifying group. The majority of the group are already regular starters for their clubs, and Ricky Sbragia acknowledges the importance of a positive start. "Belgium and England are exceptional teams but we've really progressed recently," said the coach.

"We beat a strong Romania team and I've told the players not to fear any side. Our first game is against Belgium and we can't afford to lose that. If we beat Georgia it could be that we play England in the last game to see who goes through. That would be quite something."

Key players: Ryan Gauld (forward, Dundee United FC), Ryan Fraser (winger, AFC Bournemouth), John Souttar (defender, Dundee United FC), John McGinn (midfielder, Saint Mirren FC), Lewis MacLeod (midfielder, Rangers FC)

Qualifying round: Armenia 4-0, Romania 1-0, Switzerland 4-3 (first in Group 9)

Semi-finalists last season, England have missed out on the finals only once in the last five years and, though they opened the season with a friendly defeat by Germany, have since been in fine form. Finland (1-0), Denmark (3-1) and Turkey (1-0) have all been overcome since an elite round berth was secured. "Due to a number of reasons, it's not been a settled squad this season," said coach Noel Blake. "That's given opportunities to others and the new lads have done reasonably well."

Key players: Jack O'Connell (defender, Blackburn Rovers FC), Calum Chambers (midfielder, Southampton FC), Chuba Akpom (forward, Arsenal FC)

Qualifying round: Estonia 3-0, Faroe Islands 6-0, Ukraine 1-1 (first in Group 12)

Belgium missed out on last summer's finals having appeared in the tournament for the first time in five years back in 2011, but have been in solid form. A 1-1 draw against Switzerland preceded a 1-0 loss in Greece before a win (3-1) and a draw (0-0) at home to Serbia. "It won't be an easy group," said coach Marc Van Geersom. "We first play Scotland, who gained nine points in qualifying; then we play England, who are in the finals almost every year. When we do well in those two games, we will have to finish the job in the third match against Georgia."

Key players: Nathan Kabasele (forward, Torino FC), Julien de Sart (midfielder, R. Standard de Liège), Jordy Croux (midfielder, KRC Genk), Thomas Foket (midfielder, KAA Gent)

Qualifying round: Belarus 1-0, Albania 1-3, Italy 2-1 (first in Group 7)

With Kakha Kacharava having been replaced by Georgy Tsedadze after the qualifying round, Georgia have found the going tough in 2013, losing against Portugal (0-2), Serbia (1-2) and Poland twice (1-3, 0-3). There have been 1-0 victories against Russia and Serbia, however, although that optimism is tempered by the news SpVgg Unterhaching midfielder Lucas Hufnagel will miss the elite round due to injury.

"I don't think it will be hard for us to play against England, Belgium and Scotland," Tsedadze told "On the contrary, it will be tough for them to play against such a squad as ours. The times of fear and worship are gone, and we're not weaker than anyone. The chances are even."

Key players: Bachana Arabuli (forward, FC Dila Gori), Giorgi Pantsulaia (forward, FC Torpedo Kutaisi), Nika Sandokhadze (defender, FC Torpedo Kutaisi), Guram Samushia (midfielder, FC Zestafoni)

Qualifying round: Croatia 0-2, Azerbaijan 1-1, Iceland 2-0 (second in Group 11)

Last updated: 23/05/13 9.55CET