Bulgaria coach Aleksandar Dimitrov has no illusions as to the scale of the challenge his side face at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, but is looking forward to testing his mettle against Europe's finest.
UEFA.com: How do you look at Group B?
Aleksandar Dimitrov: It may be a cliché, but there are no weak teams in the finals. Germany don't need any introduction. Serbia are the reigning champions. Ukraine are always strong and won a group with England, Scotland and Montenegro. That speaks volumes. This group is really tough.
UEFA.com: Do you think opponents could underestimate you?
Dimitrov: If I was in the shoes of the other coaches, I wouldn't allow any team to be underestimated. I'm sure my fellow coaches will do the same and we must not rely on that. These eight teams are the best, I'm sure all our opponents will give their best and we should be ready for that.
UEFA.com: Have you managed to scout the opposition?
Dimitrov: We tried, of course, and we have some idea. Germany are very, very strong. We played then in the U17 elite round two years ago, most of the players are the same, and we played very well. We lost 2-1 but gained vital experience. Serbia are also a fantastic side and the current champions. Their style is well known and it will be a tough Balkan derby. Ukraine are supposed to be very tough physically and tactically with players from great clubs. We must approach every game with one aim: giving our best and trying to grind out a result. Every single point will be important for our targets.
UEFA.com: What are those targets?
Dimitrov: Firstly, to play well. Bulgaria have not reached any tournaments since we were last in the U19s in 2008.
To some extent we have already done well, but that doesn't mean we'll be resting on our laurels. The good point is that there will be no pressure on us. We'll approach the tournament calmly knowing we can only get better. Of course, the chance of reaching the [FIFA] U-20 World Cup is there and we will try our best. It would be fantastic for Bulgarian football to go as far as possible.
UEFA.com: How do you think the players will do?
Dimitrov: I see a spark in their eyes. I am trying to explain to all of them that they should not be satisfied with qualifying; they should aim higher. They thoroughly deserve to be here, but this is also a great chance and responsibility. They have the mentality and desire to go even further. During the qualifying and elite rounds we came through very tough games against very strong opponents. That will give us a lot of confidence. Now it's up to us to show what we are capable of.
UEFA.com: One of your stars, Borislav Tsonev, has suffered a serious knee injury?
Dimitrov: It's a big blow. He was a key midfielder and we will miss him. I wish him a quick recovery. We have other options and most of the players have already established themselves at top Bulgarian sides. The atmosphere in the team is excellent. I don't want the players to be friends, but on the pitch I want to see them playing for each other, fighting for every ball, giving their best.
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