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Clean slate for final insist Stuivenberg, Böger

The Netherlands and Germany have dismissed their past encounters as irrelevant as they prepare to face each other in the final of this competition for the third time in four editions.

The coaches and captains pose with the trophy following the pre-final press conference
The coaches and captains pose with the trophy following the pre-final press conference ©Sportsfile

The Netherlands and Germany go head-to-head in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final for the third time in four editions, with the former hoping to retain the title they lifted last year and the latter hunting revenge.

At least that is how this contest is being billed. In reality it is a rather different story, as both coaches and captains attending the final press conference in their Ljubljana hotel were keen to quash any such suggestions. 

"I'm very happy that we are here again and have given ourselves a chance of retaining the trophy," said Netherlands coach Albert Stuivenberg. "However, last year's match has nothing to do with this game. Everything is different. We are playing against a great team and it will be hard, but it is also a great chance and we are looking forward to it."

The statistics point to the game being a tight affair, with only one goal conceded between the finalists throughout the competition. Stuivenberg stressed that neither side goes into the match as favourites. "We have focused on this game as we would any other, but it is an unpredictable game," he said. "Anything can happen in football. Tomorrow, who knows? And that's a great thing."

Those sentiments were echoed by Jong Oranje captain, Nathan Ake. "We must treat this as a normal game," Ake insisted. "We just have to stay calm, play our normal game and help each other out. Though we are holders we don't consider ourselves favourites; this is a new team and so are Germany."

Germany coach Stefan Böger was reading from the same hymn sheet as his Dutch counterpart and said "It wouldn't matter who we were playing tomorrow, I would want the same things from my players. I want to see passion and most importantly I want to see them enjoy themselves. It is a first final for them, they should just have fun."

Preparation has been shown to be key to Böger's successful reign – the tactician is yet to be beaten in almost 30 matches in charge of Germany. Böger says he has no intention of changing tack.

"We have put in some good performances in the tournament so far," he said. "And we are again very well prepared for this. This is a very important match, but the team must play for themselves and not focus on the added pressure of playing for their country. They should be able to play with freedom."

However, Böger's leader on the pitch, captain Leon Goretzka, does not feel that pressure will be an issue for Germany. "We are feeling very positive," he said. "We had a similar situation in the elite round against Portugal, when there was a lot of pressure, so we have shown we can cope with that. 

"Naturally, as captain, I will have a big role to play tomorrow, both for my team and for Germany," added Goretzka. "I am looking forward to that responsibility."