The coaches of Georgia, Turkey and France are hoping the return of key players can boost their UEFA European Under-19 Championship prospects as the four Group B teams prepare for the second round of matches on Tuesday.
Serbia hold the early initiative in the section thanks to their 2-1 defeat of Turkey on Saturday – when France and Georgia played out a goalless draw – a rude awakening for a Turkey side that scored nine goals in winning all three elite round qualifiers. Defenders Serdar Yazıcı and Hakan Çinemre plus midfielder Okay Yokuşlu were all banned from that encounter, however, and coach Okan Buruk hopes their availability can turn the tide against France in Alytus.
"We know France's strengths; at this age they are generally very successful," the coach explained. "Their game against Georgia will be important in terms of our game plan against them. We will study that match and the strategies they use. After the [first] game, I told the squad that the tournament continues for us, that we have two very important matches ahead and we still have a chance of reaching the semi-finals. I told them to lift their heads, starting immediately with the next match."
France also welcome back one of their central figures from qualifying, Olympique de Marseille midfielder Larry Azouni, yet perhaps more significant for coach Francis Smerecki is the work-out provided by a competitive fixture. "The fact we've played a game at all will help our fitness and our sharpness. We're at the start of our season in France and we were a bit short in an attacking sense against Georgia.
"With two teams qualifying, a draw isn't fatal for either us or Georgia," added Smerecki, who oversaw France's 2010 U19 triumph on home soil. "Everything will be decided in the second and third games, there's all to play for.
We stepped it up in the second half of the first game; with a couple of extra matches, we'll find our best level."
For Giorgi Tsetsadze, there were plenty of positives from that opening draw – and much to look forward to, beginning against the Serbs in Marijampole. "Our two midfielders Daviti Ubilava and Guram Samushia are returning from suspension, which will be a great asset for our team," the Georgia coach said. "We know Serbia very well as we played against them twice recently, including a friendly during our preparations for the elite round, although of course we'll look at their match against Turkey too. I have every faith in this group of players and I believe we can succeed at this tournament."
Serbia's Ljubinko Drulović had most reason for satisfaction from the first set of games, although the coach too has his challenges. "One of our problems is that some of our players are not in peak condition," he observed. "In Serbia we're in pre-season, so we want to freshen them up in the coming days.
"We know this Georgian team very well," he went on. "We played them twice in friendlies this year; we won one game and Georgia won the other. They are a very good side. They can cause surprises in this championship. If my players play like they did against Turkey, however, we can hope for another win."
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