With this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Denmark fast approaching, the eight finalists are taking the opportunity to get in some friendly practice during international week. UEFA.com previews the first set of games.
Thursday: Denmark v England
Keld Bordinggaard will cast his eye over Juventus defender Frederik Sørensen when the 18-year-old joins up with the U21 squad. Having played just four U17 internationals, Sørensen had not been on the radar for the tournament hosts, but after breaking into the Juve first team he has entered Bordinggaard's thinking. "We have taken this chance to invite him and get to know him better," the coach said.
Stuart Pearce, meanwhile, is beginning to think about finalising his England finals squad. "Competition for places is fantastic, not just to get in the team but to get in the squad of 23," the manager said. "The contact time with the team this week is good. We've got ten days with the players and we'll learn a lot more about them as a team and individually." The 2009 runners-up will look at 17-year-old Connor Wickham and Josh McEachran, 18, who were both part of England's UEFA European U17 Championship-winning squad last year.
Thursday: Ukraine v Iceland
Ukraine's acting senior team coach, Yuriy Kalytventsev, has released Andriy Yarmolenko, Artem Kravets, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Taras Stepanenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka rather than use them for the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts' friendly against Italy. Although FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk pair Pavlo Pashayev and Anton Kanibolotskiy are nursing injuries, Mykola Morozyuk – the only ever-present for Ukraine in qualifying – does return for Pavlo Yakovenko's side.
There is a touch of inexperience about the Iceland selection with ten regulars drafted into the full squad for the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Cyprus. Even so, forward Aron Jóhannsson is the only newcomer and team manager Gudlaugur Gudmundsson hopes for a good showing from the debutant finalists. "We will play our strongest team even if we don't know what the exact makeup of it will be."
Friday: Saudi Arabia (Olympic squad) v Switzerland
The friendlies against Saudi Arabia's Olympic team and Qatar's equivalent on Tuesday, will be coach Pierluigi Tami's last opportunity to see his players together before he announces his squad for Denmark. "These two matches will indicate the players' physical condition while also giving me the option to see new ones," Tami said. Eren Derdiyok, Xherdan Shaqiri, Valentin Stocker, François Affolter and Mario Gavranović are on senior duty yet still eligible for finals; Grasshopper-Club midfielder Nzuzi Toko has received a first call-up.
Friday: Czech Republic v Belarus
Coach Jakub Dovalil welcomes the chance to try fresh faces with five of his regulars moving into Michal Bílek's senior squad this week. "It isn't a problem because we've seen enough of them over the last two years, with the exception of Václav Kadlec who played just one game for us," Dovalil said. "The others will get their chance now." Centre-back Marek Suchý is back from the senior fold while the tournament's top scorer in qualifying, Tomáš Pekhart, joins up on a high after Saturday's double strike for AC Sparta Praha, his first goals for that club.
For Belarus, forward Vladimir Yurchenko misses out while midfielder Pavel Nekhaychik and goalkeeper Artem Gomelko get a run-out with the full squad. "It will be very interesting to play against this team," coach Georgi Kondratyev said of the Czechs. "Our players have a chance to measure themselves against the best at this level."
Reporting: Michael Schifferle, Ladislav Josef, Peter Bruun and Stefán Stefánsson.
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