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Hosts face champions in Group A

Published: Monday 22 July 2013, 20.22CET
Having started Group A with wins, Spain and the Netherlands now face tricky challenges against Lithuania and Portugal sides determined to revive their last-four hopes.
by Paul Bryan
from Kaunas
Hosts face champions in Group A
Lithuania in training ahead of their game against Spain ©Valdas Knyzelis
Published: Monday 22 July 2013, 20.22CET

Hosts face champions in Group A

Having started Group A with wins, Spain and the Netherlands now face tricky challenges against Lithuania and Portugal sides determined to revive their last-four hopes.

Lithuania coach Antanas Vingilys is hoping the "psychological blow" suffered after an opening-day defeat by the Netherlands will have abated in time for his team's encounter against UEFA European Under-19 Championship holders Spain.

Having fought back from a two-goal deficit during last Saturday's Group A opener, the hosts finally succumbed to Rai Vloet's added-time header which left the majority of the 7,436-crowd crestfallen. Lithuania's chance at redemption arrives against the six-time winners yet Vingilys is well aware of the challenge the debutants will face.

"I saw all the matches on the first day and Spain impressed me the most," the coach explained. "This game is going to be more difficult than the first. Spain play their usual style and are a very mobile team with fast and well-built players who combine well."

Lithuania face an anxious wait on the fitness of striker Lukas Spalvis and midfielder Deimantas Petravičius, both of whom picked up knocks in the group opener, which Vingilys has since been trying to put out of his players' minds. "The goal we conceded in the last minute dealt a psychological blow to the team; some players were deflated. But we will try to rise from that disappointment."

In contrast Spanish morale is high after the reigning champions started with a 1-0 win against Portugal, Sandro Ramírez getting the only goal of the game. Deprived of the suspended Héctor Bellerín – sent off in Marijampole on Saturday – coach Luis de la Fuente will nonetheless have a strong squad from which to choose as he plots an early passage through to the semi-finals.

"Every team here is of a very similar level," said the former Athletic Club defender. "We realise we are playing in a competition where the smallest error will be punished. If you're not focused and playing at your highest level, any team can surprise you. We'll face the Lithuania game as we do any other; we will give them our utmost respect. Lithuania are a very competitive team who are going to make things really difficult for us and the fact that they are playing at home will make them even more dangerous."

Portugal meet the Netherlands in the group's early kick-off and will have defender Leandro Silva available again after suspension as they seek to make up for the disappointment of that matchday one loss to Spain.

"We already know about this Dutch team and so we will train accordingly," coach Emilio Peixe said. "They are a very quick side who play positive football but we will be prepared."

His counterpart Wim van Zwam, meanwhile, has been keenly studying DVDs of his opponents and, after his side's celebrations following their win against the hosts last Saturday, the serious preparation work had since begun. "We [had] a little party but we know we now must raise our level for the next game," he explained. "We're fully focused on Portugal and we need to be [alert] for the whole match. Our aim in every game is to win."

Last updated: 22/07/13 21.23CET

http://www.uefa.com/under19/news/newsid=1974879.html#hosts+face+champions+group+a

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