Anticipation is high among the coaches of the four teams in UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group A, Géza Mészöly summing up the general mood by saying: "We're looking forward to the first match very much."
The Hungary coach joined his colleagues from Austria, Israel and Portugal at the pre-finals press conference and, while the prevailing feeling was expectant, as hosts Mészöly's men have extra motivation. "Of course we've been waiting for this tournament; it's a great opportunity for Hungarian players to show what they can do," he said. "The team has been waiting for this chance."
Hungary begin against Austria in Budapest, and opposing coach Andreas Heraf believes his charges can rise to the occasion. "The team is looking forward to the first game and it's a great thing to play it against Hungary," he explained. "I hope and think a lot of people will come to the stadium. For my young players, it's a great chance to show how they can play football. We have three players suspended, but as always we'll do our best."
Performing in front of a sizeable home crowd may present a new challenge for most of the Hungary squad, yet their coach is eager to harness the power of that backing. "Being hosts can bring pressure, but it can also be an advantage," added Mészöly, who has taken advice from referee Viktor Kassai and Kálmán Kovács – a member of the victorious Hungary squad in the 1984 European U18 Championship – on how to cope.
"There's pressure but we hope to treat is as positive rather than it standing in the way," he said. "We've been successful with our results lately, but we don't know what will happen in front of a large crowd and in a tournament atmosphere. I'm confident the players will meet this new challenge, do well and make the country proud."
With all four coaches acknowledging the initial goal is a place in next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup – meaning third place or better in the group – Portugal and Israel know the importance of a positive result when they meet in Felcsut. "It's good to start with a win, because it will motivate the team and give them confidence," said Hélio Sousa of Portugal. "It's not decisive, though, because there are still two games to go."
In contrast to the three other Group A sides, Portugal have been finals regulars in recent years, to the satisfaction of their coach. "We're here for the fourth time in five years and we're in a good position, but we're always looking to the future," he said. "We want to give our players the best competition to make them as good as they can be. We had a good qualifying campaign and we'll be on top form and able to compete in every game. We want to show that we have good players and are an organised team who can play well."
First opponents Israel are making their finals debut, and Eli Ohana is eager for kick-off. "We're happy and excited to be here," said the coach. "
We have two missions: to reach the semi-finals and the World Cup. In tournaments the first match is often crucial. This one is a little different – if you lose your first two matches, you can still win the third and make the World Cup. Let's hope we can achieve our goals. We expect to."
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