U21 finalists step up preparation

As the eight UEFA European Under-21 Championship finalists continue preparations with friendlies this week, Netherlands coach Cor Pot is running the rule over five new faces.

Cor Pot, coach of Netherlands celebrates victory after the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off second leg match against Slovakia
Cor Pot, coach of Netherlands celebrates victory after the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off second leg match against Slovakia ©Getty Images

Coach Cor Pot is looking forward to running the rule over new faces in his squad as the Netherlands take on Croatia on Tuesday, with the eight UEFA European Under-21 Championship finalists stepping up their preparations.

With Louis van Gaal calling up a number of Pot's squad for action in the senior side, the coach has given five new names a chance to impress: Feyenoord's Jean-Paul Boëtius and Tonny Trindade de Vilhena, Mike van der Hoorn of FC Utrecht, Jürgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven and Heracles Almelo's Thomas Bruns.

"It will be good to see the new players as we must take 23 men to Israel, and we must fill up those slots," said Pot. "I am looking forward to seeing Mike van der Hoorn. I expect a lot of him. It is his first time with us – he is strong and quick and I am very happy to invite him and see him playing.

"I don't know what to expect from Croatia. They always have skilful players and play skilful football. I hope for a good friendly game and we can see how we measure up to them. I hope they are very strong so we can see our own weaknesses."

Four teams who will be appearing at the finals in June will test themselves against each other, as Italy host Germany on 6 February, while Norway welcome Russia a day later. None of the sides will meet in the finals group stage, but the fixtures could prove enlightening should the teams progress to the semi-finals.

Defending champions Spain test themselves against Belgium, who finished behind finalists Norway and England in qualifying Group 8, while the winners of that section, England, have picked a strong squad to face Sweden, who fell at the play-off stage.

"We hope the game will give us the chance to start this year where we left off as we build towards Israel," said England manager Stuart Pearce. "We need to start the year well and take a solid run of form forward as we build for June and beyond. I expect Sweden will come with a younger side, and for us we'll probably have one or two players who have done extremely well over the winter period. 2012 was a good year for us. The squad evolved so we saw a lot of players during the year illustrating the depth we have."