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Group A rivals aim to seize initiative

After two draws on the first matchday, Group A is wide open at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship as defending champions Spain meet France in a rematch of last year's showpiece and Italy take on Switzerland.

Philippe Bergeroo is hoping to guide his France team to victory against holders Spain
Philippe Bergeroo is hoping to guide his France team to victory against holders Spain ©Sportsfile

After two draws on the first matchday UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group A is still wide open but, with Spain and France to meet in a repeat of last year's showpiece and Italy preparing to take on Switzerland, the results from Saturday's games will go a long way to deciding which two teams make the last four in Germany.

Final replay
Spain beat France 4-0 in last year's final in Turkey, but the champions have got off to a stuttering defence of their title following the goalless draw against Italy on Wednesday. The two sides meet again at 12.00CET in Grimma and Spain coach Ginés Meléndez is confident his charges can kick-start their campaign. "The performance against Italy was good," he said. "The only thing missing was a goal. The team will not change much because we are going to stick to our philosophy."

'Small details'
Meléndez confirmed that midfielder Pablo Sarabia will be fit to play after picking up a minor knock against Italy, but is not expecting an easy ride against Philippe Bergeroo's side. "I don't know much about the team but the coach is a good friend. I expect a very good game – like a final. We will have more of the ball but the result will be decided on small details."

Bergeroo, who guided France to victory in 2004, is of a similar opinion, adding: "We know how each other plays. In the end it's a player's individual skill that will make the difference." However, he feels the development of footballers in Spain makes them favourites. "I look up to what Spain do. Youngsters work on their technique but not just for technique's sake; everything they do is geared towards playing good attacking football."

Training-ground work
Meanwhile, Italy coach Pasquale Salerno is cautiously optimistic ahead of his side's meeting with Switzerland in Torgau at 14.00. "After the game versus Spain I expect my boys to realise they are a good team," he said. "Holding them to a draw is not easy." The Azzurrini trainer is expecting another tight match against Dany Ryser's outfit, explaining: "We've talked about Switzerland's strengths and weaknesses and have made some adjustments during training. They send a lot of players forward in possession, but are extremely good at keeping men behind the ball when defending."

No favourites
For his part, Switzerland coach Ryser is wary of the threat posed by Salerno's charges. "It is always difficult to play against Italy," he said. "They defend well and are extremely dangerous on the counterattack. I always say, 'Take too many risks against Italy, you're finished'." He also rejected the notion that his side were favourites based on the two nations' results at U17 level in recent years. "There's a certain amount of luck involved. For instance, we made it to last year's tournament with a goal from our goalkeeper in the 93rd minute of the last [Elite round] game."