Lithuania have never before appeared in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, and the man charged with making their debut a success is Antanas Vingilys. With holders – and six-time champions – Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands joining the hosts in Group A, Vingilys's task could scarcely be tougher, yet the 49-year-old is quietly optimistic of a positive showing as his team prepare for their finals bow.
UEFA.com: What do you think of the draw?
Antanas Vingilys: A draw is a draw. There's no weak teams at this level. All three teams in our group are very good so it will be very difficult for us. Spain are obviously a very good team; they're holders, have won the last two competitions and I expect them to be among the favourites to win the title again. We haven't seen Portugal play live but they finished first in a strong group in the elite round so that shows how good they are.
UEFA.com: Your first game is against the Netherlands on Saturday; what do you expect from them?
Vingilys: The way Dutch teams play football is well known, and they beat Germany – who are very good – in their last qualifier to reach the finals. They're also a very strong team and possible candidates to win the trophy.
UEFA.com: How important will it be to start the tournament well?
Vingilys: It's crucial, particularly emotionally and psychologically for the players. It would give them confidence for the matches still to come and it will be really important to begin well as I think one of the teams from our group will win the tournament.
UEFA.com: What can you tell us about your side?
Vingilys: Obviously we are not very well known but we have lots of players who have come through our national academy. Some of them are playing for very big clubs abroad and I hope they will be able to help us. We will fight in every game and always give our best.
UEFA.com: What does this tournament mean for Lithuania?
Vingilys: This shows that our country is not just about basketball, but also that football is quite popular here. The Lithuanian Football Federation [LFF] has invested a lot in this tournament and also both the national academy and other academies to prepare the teams as well as possible.
UEFA.com: What are your hopes for the finals?
Vingilys: Obviously we hope to play as well as we can and hopefully get through to the next round. Realistically, looking at our group, that's going to be very difficult but we'll prepare the players to play every game like it's a final.
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