The Estádio Municipal de Águeda will get an early taste of what is to come at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship when Portugal and Italy meet in a high-profile friendly in the northern Portuguese town tonight.
As hosts and holders, the two titans of youth football were kept apart in the 9 February draw for the finals in Porto. Portugal were placed in Group A with France, Serbia and Montenegro, and Germany, while Italy will square off against Denmark, Ukraine, and the Netherlands in Group B. The winners of each pool will play the runners-up from the other section in the semi-finals, with the victors progressing to the final in Porto on Sunday 4 June.
Three other finalists also begin their warm-up schedules this evening, with France entertaining Slovakia in Toulon, Ukraine travelling to Israel for a friendly, and Germany playing host to the Latvia senior team in Wolfsburg. Dieter Eilts's side also have a match against Armenia's senior team confirmed for 21 March in Ahlen.
Three for Denmark
Denmark are the only qualifiers to have three friendly games arranged, although the venues have not been set for the visits to Copenhagen of Turkey (5 April) and Spain (17 May). First, though, Flemming Serritslev's talented young squad will tackle Croatia in Zagreb tomorrow. Serbia and Montenegro are also away that day as they encounter Tunisia.
All eight qualifiers will hope to play up to three matches before the finals get under way on 23 May and are close to finalising those fixtures. Ukraine will have two assignments at the annual Valeriy Lobanovskiy memorial tournament in Kiev on 12 and 14 May, although a potential meeting with the Netherlands had to be scrapped after they were drawn together in Group B.
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