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Group A quartet upbeat for opener

Broad grins reflected the buoyant mood of all four coaches ahead of the start of 2013 UEFA Under-17 European Championship Group A in Dubnica nad Vahom and Zilina on Sunday.

The head coaches of the four Group A teams
The head coaches of the four Group A teams ©Sportsfile

Slovakia coach Ladislav Pecko believes any added pressure his young side face as hosts will melt away once they get their Group A campaign underway against Austria on Sunday.

Organising the tournament has afforded Pecko the opportunity to take a Slovakia squad into the finals at this level for the first time in the country's history. A lack of experience does not, however, equate with diminished ambitions for the former Slovak international defender, who is confident the expectation on his team's shoulders will soon dissipate at the MFK Dubnica Stadium.

"I am not sure if there is any way to prepare for the pressure of playing at home. The whole team is looking forward to the first match. I believe the pressure will disappear after the first few minutes of the game," Pecko told UEFA.com, before dismissing suggestions defeats to Sunday's opponents and another section rival, Switzerland, in friendlies earlier in the season put the hosts at a disadvantage.

"We saw what our opponents are capable of, we've had time to put right the mistakes we made. We can be competitive against them, but at the same time, we know they are ahead of us."

The last of the four Zilina-based teams to arrive, after a three-hour coach ride from Vienna, Austria will be hoping their supporters will make the short hop across the border to encourage their nation in their first matches outside their home country in this season's competition.

"I'm happy with the preparation. We've really been on the boil in each training session. We've come to Slovakia in a positive frame of mind," coach Hermann Stadler told UEFA.com. Stadler added he was relieved to have midfielder Valentino Lazaro and defender Dominic Baumgartner available after injury, saying: "Those two make us stronger."

Stadler may need his full squad with the Swiss also in the section. Heinz Moser's team bested their neighbours in the qualifying round, and kick off their bid to improve on their disappointing 2010 finals tournament against Sweden in Zilina. "I have to say that my aim is to get more points than three years ago," Moser, who oversaw three group-stage defeats in Liechtenstein in that campaign, told UEFA.com with a broad smile. "We want to qualify for the semi-finals and get ourselves a place at the World Cup. We can look further forward after that."

With a berth at the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup on offer for the top three in each section, ultimate victory in the final on 17 May is not the sole objective. But for a late goal from Valmir Berisha in Hungary in the elite round, Sweden would not even have earned themselves a maiden finals appearance at this level.

"I think that was a very good experience for them," coach Roland Larsson told UEFA.com. "They were focussed all the way. The weather was very bad – it was like playing in a swimming pool. They were focused on the way that we wanted to play. They have good mental qualities, and that's something that can be used here."