The UEFA European Under-21 Championship kicked off with the opening Group A games on Wednesday. UEFA.com summarises the reaction and looks ahead to the first Group B fixtures.
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Manager Stuart Pearce admitted that his team deserved nothing after their nine-match winning streak ended in Tel Aviv. "We were awful at times," he said. "We have two games coming up and I'd say we have to win both of them. But the same applies to Israel and Norway," added Pearce who kept Wilfried Zaha – a pre-match concern owing to an ankle problem – on the bench throughout Wednesday's contest.
Israel earned their first point in a UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals but the feeling among coach Guy Luzon and his players was they were fortunate – despite the fact they would have taken all three but for Norway's added-time equaliser in the 2-2 draw. Luzon was unhappy with his team's defensive organisation and declared their performance as "the worst match that we have ever played". Luzon also revealed in his post-match press conference that captain Nir Biton, who left the field after 75 minutes, may have picked up a slight knock and would be assessed by the Israel medical staff.
Azzurrini coach Devis Mangia was only too happy to let his emotions show when celebrating the only goal against England, explaining afterwards: "I did not care. It was my first match as coach at a European Championship." It brought a happy end to a day that had begun with some light muscle work and a DVD analysis of England in the morning before Mangia's squad received a visit in the afternoon from the Italian Football Association (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete and general manager Antonello Valentini.
The feeling in the Norway dressing room at the Netanya Municipal Stadium was rather than one point gained – through substitute Harmeet Singh's last-gasp goal – it was more a case of two dropped given the chances created against Israel. "We needed one point but deserved three" was coach Tor Ole Skullerud's assessment, though the manner of his side's display has left him confident looking ahead to Saturday's meeting with England. "It will be a step up from this game but we've played England twice in the qualifying stages and we felt that we could have got more out of the games. We lost them both but played very well so I am optimistic."
Captain Lewis Holtby dismissed reports that he is doubtful for Thursday's match against the Netherlands. "No one needs to worry about me," he told reporters before praising the spirit in the Germany camp. "The atmosphere is superb and I am enjoying every second captaining this squad." With a full squad to choose from, coach Rainer Adrion is confident that he can outwit the Dutch. "One of their styles is to play a lot of diagonal balls and switch sides," he said. "This is a key aspect of their 4-3-3 and we aim to pre-empt that."
The Dutch looked in good shape at the final training session at Ha Moshava Stadium. Coach Cor Pot had all of his squad available and oversaw a handful of light drills in perfect conditions, with his players passing the ball with a real sharpness. Pot said at his press conference that his team were ready to alter their approach depending on the way Germany play. "When Germany play an open game, then we will do it also. It depends on Germany what style of play we will see in this game," he explained.
Russia's players were in the classroom on Wednesday afternoon as they split into two groups to study their opening opponents, Spain. Andrei Panyukov – the late replacement for the injured Aleksandr Kokorin – was able to train fully with the rest of the squad after missing the friendly against Maccabi Ironi on Monday and training on Tuesday and coach Nikolai Pisarev confirmed that all his other players were fit for action.
Coach Julen Lopetegui said that he had all 23 players fit and raring to go as Spain prepared to begin their title defence in Jerusalem on Thursday night. Thiago Alcántara, Spain's captain, played down the suggestion that the holders were under any extra pressure when he said: "We have more enthusiasm than pressure and I personally am really motivated and eager to get started."