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Czechs await amateur action

The Czech Republic will be the focus of the action in the UEFA Regions' Cup qualifying Group 4 mini-tournament.

The Czech Republic will be the focus of the action as UEFA Regions' Cup qualifying Group 4 kicks off on Friday.

Home advantage
Hosts Southern Moravia Amateur look like favourites, with home advantage having proved a major factor in the qualifying tournaments so far, but the prospect of a place in next June's finals may bring the best out of Sweden's Väsby IK, Portugal's Portalegre Amateur and District Zuid 1 from the Netherlands.

Czech competitors
With a Czech side having ended in third place at the first Regions' Cup in 1999 before Central Moravia Amateur won the tournament in 2001, hopes are high in the Southern Moravia camp, even though their coach Radek Rabusic recently left the team to coach Greek second division side Volos FC.

Finals target
Coach Petr Cuhel has suffered some setbacks before the tournament, with one player unable to play because of his commitments as a lorry driver, but the 39-year-old remains excited. "It's an interesting experience for all of us and qualifying for the final tournament could be a great reward," he said.

Busy lives
Portalegre coach Professor Joaquim Samarra has also had problems with his young players' work commitments. "Some of them are students, others have all kinds of professions from road construction and maintenance to other physically demanding jobs," he told uefa.com. "That's one of the reasons we struggled to find suitable hours for everyone to be able to attend the training sessions."

'Enormously proud'
However, the Portuguese side have managed to get plenty of practice before the finals and are itching for an opportunity to prove themselves. "We are enormously proud to represent Portalegre and Portugal in this competition," said Samarra. "I'm sure we'll honour the name of our region and country."

Young Dutchmen
Portalegre's team contains 12 players under 22 years old, but Zuid 1's entire squad is under 23. Featuring players from the provinces of Zeeland, Noord-Brabant and the city of Dordrecht, coach Johan van Heertum has given his side plenty of practice in recent weeks.

Great results
The team earned a creditable 2-2 draw against a side from Eredivisie club RBC Roosendahl a few weeks ago and performed well in a 4-2 defeat by FC Den Bosch and a 2-1 loss to NAC Breda. Certainly it has whetted the players' appetites for international competition in the Czech Republic.

'Too much fun'
Midfield player Samir El Makrini said: "We have a very talented squad. Training has been pretty heavy. Besides this, I have a day job, train two times a week at my club and we also play on Sunday. But you do not hear me complain. It is just too much fun."

Swedish contingent
Sweden's Regions' Cup ambitions foundered in the intermediary round in 2002/03 as they were knocked out by eventual winners Piemonte Valle d'Aosta Amateur before they could reach the final tournament. Väsby, who kick off against Southern Moravia in their first game, will be hoping for better luck.

Final place
The competition will take shape over five days with each team playing each other once. The team that finish top of the table after all three games will win a place at the final of the tournament, Europe's top competition for amateur footballers, next June.