"A great challenge" was Israel coach Guy Luzon's verdict on Group A, which pits the host country against previous winners England and Italy and surprise qualifiers Norway.
It is fair to say that the four coaches in Group A all had some cause for satisfaction after the draw for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship pitted hosts Israel against England, Italy and Norway. "A great challenge" was the verdict of Israel coach Guy Luzon, while Stuart Pearce and Devis Mangia tried to play down the notion the draw had been kind to them.
Guy Luzon, Israel coach
It's a great challenge for us – England, Italy, it's the [highest] level of European national teams. We will do our best and it will be OK. England are a fantastic team. Most of their players play in the Premier League and most of our players play in the Ligat HaAl in Israel, so it will be difficult, but it's not impossible. Now we are looking forward to June. We are very excited about this competition, about hosting it, and the atmosphere will be really good. It will be fantastic.
Stuart Pearce, England coach
We're in with the hosts and we've seen from past experience being in with Sweden [in 2009] how the home nation buoy up their team. Everyone has expectations of what they deem as the strongest or weakest group and weakest teams, but until a ball is kicked and you know how things have gone and the dynamics of group football, you never actually know. If people are perceiving that our group is a slightly easier group, the one thing you do know, if it is the case, whichever teams get out of it will probably have the toughest semi-final, so it counts both ways. We feel we have a tough group and we hope to give a good account of ourselves against three really good nations.
Per Joar Hansen, Norway coach
We are satisfied – we hoped we wouldn't meet Spain and that we'd meet Israel. We know the home team are a very tough task with the home crowd and their enthusiasm, but we are happy. We met England in our qualifying group twice, the two games were equal [though England won both]. We know it's going to be tough, but also that we'll have a chance. We know Italy are a very good team, it's a tough group, but we are positive. The rankings [show] England and Italy will be the favourites, with Israel and Norway the outsiders.
Devis Mangia, Italy coach
The eight teams here are all very competitive, so I didn't really have any preferences. What I can say about the other group is that there are teams in it that we know better than the teams that we will face in our group, so now we have to focus on learning things about our opponents. People might talk about England and Italy as favourites – for me they have the most experience of such competitions, but there are two sides to that because, as we saw, Norway eliminated France [in the play-offs] and France were one of the big favourites for this competition. And Israel are a growing nation and the host team. They will definitely have the crowd on their side.