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Friday at U17 EURO: Groups C and D begin

Holders France start their campaign, England meet "underdogs" Sweden, while the Netherlands are weakened by suspensions. UEFA.com previews Groups C and D.

The Group C coaches gather around the trophy, held by Bernard Diomede's France
The Group C coaches gather around the trophy, held by Bernard Diomede's France ©Sportsfile

Group C

France v Denmark (17.00CET, Dalga Stadium, Baku)
• Bernard Diomède is reading nothing into France's 3-0 and 3-1 friendly victories over Denmark in February. "Even though they lost, Denmark still showed their quality, both on the ground and aerially," he told UEFA.com. Diomède, a FIFA World Cup winner in 1998, has replaced Jean-Claude Giuntini, the man who led France to glory in 2015. "I try to use my experience from that tournament to transmit my knowledge and the way I see the game, but the main thing is for the players to write their own story."

• Denmark face a stern test in their first finals match since 2011. Assistant coach Niels Lawaetz unsurprisingly considers Les Bleus "to be the favourites in our group", adding: "We'll try to find a good balance between adapting our game to [cope with] strong teams while staying true to our philosophy. We like to have a lot of possession, but we realise that will be difficult against England and France."

2015 final: Odsonne Edouard hat-trick inspires France to 4-1 victory over Germany

England v Sweden (17.00, Qarabağ Stadium, Baku)
• For the first time since 2002, England embark on a final tournament without John Peacock as coach. His successor, Steve Cooper, was on Peacock's staff in Bulgaria 12 months ago. "I've stayed close with John throughout the year," he explained. "He's a good man, a good advocate for English teams and coaches, so it would be foolish not to tap into his experience." Regarding Sweden, Cooper, for whom Reiss Nelson scored six goals en route to Azerbaijan, said: "They have a noticeable way of playing and had a relatively comfortable qualification."

• Magnus Wikman knows Sweden are up against it in a section containing two double U17 champions in England and France, describing his side as "real underdogs". The Blågult have qualified for only the second time, having reached the semi-finals in 2013. "It's good experience and an opportunity to develop our players because we don't feature in tournaments like this very often," he said. "We will try to challenge England, but we need to be at our maximum to do that."

Suspended: Anel Ahmedhodzic (Sweden)

Group D

The tournament hotel on the shores of the Caspian
The tournament hotel on the shores of the Caspian©Sportsfile

Italy v Serbia (12.00, Qarabağ Stadium, Baku)
• Runners-up in 2013, Italy begin their bid for a first U17 title against a team they defeated twice earlier this year. "Serbia are a good side," said coach Alessandro Dal Canto. "We faced them a few months ago [winning 4-2 and 3-1]. Tomorrow it's important that we play hard and well."

• Buoyed by a perfect elite round record, Ilija Stolica knows the hard work starts now for Serbia. "Those were definitely good results [against Montenegro, Poland and the Republic of Ireland] and it's always nice to have three victories behind you," he said. "It gives you confidence, but finals are something completely different. That's behind us now and we need to give our best to reach that level again."

Netherlands v Spain (13.30, Dalga Arena)
• The Netherlands' preparations for their opening assignment have been hindered by the absence of four regulars – defenders Navajo Bakboord and Tyrell Malacia, midfielder Leandro Fernandes and forward Tahith Chong – due to suspension. "When you're facing a big match you want everyone available," explained coach Kees van Wonderen. "Is this team strong enough to replace four banned players? We will have to wait and see."

Spain players make use of their downtime at the hotel
Spain players make use of their downtime at the hotel©Sportsfile

• Spain were among the lowest scorers in the elite round with one goal in three games, a tally nonetheless sufficient enough for them to progress as one of the seven best runners-up after a penalty shoot-out against Belgium decided the section. "We need to improve our attacking capabilities," said coach Santi Denia. "We've worked on that and we want to score more goals here, but to do that we need passion."

Suspended: Navajo Bakboord, Tahith Chong, Leandro Fernandes, Tyrell Malacia (Netherlands), David Subias (Spain)

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