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The confidence gained during the adventure that has taken Belgium and Poland to the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship promises to produce a tight and tense semi-final between the teams at the Colovray Stadium in Nyon on Tuesday.
Belgium, to some surprise, eliminated Denmark and Germany – the latter such a force at this age level – in the second qualifying round, while Poland also overcame tough opposition in Norway and Austria to make it to the last four. With a cherished European final at stake on Friday for two nations who are making their debut at this stage of the competition, both will be hoping that the team spirit which has sustained their campaigns will hold firm and pull them through.
"The team is full of confidence, but listening to how my players are talking, they are keeping their feet on the ground," Belgium coach Joëlle Piron told UEFA.com. "They know they produced a very good performance in eliminating Germany and Denmark in the second round. And they know they can't underestimate Poland here in the semi-final, but they have prepared tactically, physically and mentally to win this tie.
"The girls are now going to have to prove that they deserve to be here," Piron added. "No one expected us to win the second round, we played each match without pressure, while here we are now among the four best teams in Europe. Now the players are going to acquire maturity, and mentally they are going to have to deal with certain pressures, because all of Europe is watching them. We can only learn and emerge stronger from this experience."
Poland come to Nyon heartened by their progress through the competition and feel they have the firepower to reach a final against Spain or Sweden. "We respect the ability of our rivals," said coach Zbigniew Witkowski, "but at the same time, we know what is the value of our own qualities. We don't have any complexes. We managed to qualify from a very strong group. We appreciate our opponents but we have faith in our success.
"Belgium are strong opponents," he went on. "They managed to qualify from an even stronger group – playing against Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. They have a fantastic defence and the team showed a great balance between attack and defence as well. I just want to play well in each game and show what we've been practising. At the same time, I believe that if we manage to show what we've been training for for a long time, over three years, we will be able to win games."
Admission for all matches in Nyon this week is free. Tickets can be picked up from various locations in the Swiss town.
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