How the Faroe Islands' more than respectable performance in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying tournament is helping the country's senior team to improve its standing.
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The Faroe Islands' participation in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying round has so far been a success.
It is only the Faroes' second appearance in the competition – in their debut campaign of 2007-09, four points from a home victory and away draw against Azerbaijan represented a good return for a nation whose senior team lay second from bottom in the FIFA rankings.
This time around, results have been even better for the islanders, and their participation seems to be a worthwhile investment for Faroese football.
The U21 side have collected eight points from eight matches in Group 1 to date. If the most unexpected result was the 1-0 home win over Russia in June, the team have since held visiting Moldova, and in November came home with four points after a 1-0 victory in Latvia and a 1-1 draw in Andorra.
Despite achieving the biggest points haul of any Faroese side in recent memory, the coaches are not entirely satisfied. "After we got all three points in Riga [against Latvia], we were expecting a full house – unfortunately, Andorra managed to equalise in the Pyrenees," one of the coaches, Bill McLeod Jacobsen, said upon the team's return.
He is certain that the U21s' participation in the championship will pay dividends. "Just as we have earned good results, so have our senior team, who in just one year have risen from 798th to 720th in the FIFA rankings. This has been achieved with several U21 players in the team. I am convinced the hard work with the U17 and U19 national teams, and now the U21s, is one of the reasons for these good results."
The U21s have two matches left in the qualifying competition, against Andorra at home in August and Moldova away in September. Jacobsen expects more points from these games. If that happens, they will break all Faroese records for points taken in an international tournament.