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Group A rivals ready for next step

Despite winning starts to their finals campaigns, France coach Francis Smerecki and England's Noel Blake believe there is more to come from their teams in the second round of matches.

France coach Francis Smerecki has been the centre of attention in Caen
France coach Francis Smerecki has been the centre of attention in Caen ©Sportsfile

Their teams were both victorious on the opening day of the 9th UEFA European Under-19 Championship, yet France coach Francis Smerecki and his England counterpart Noel Blake both see plenty of room for improvement ahead of the second round of Group A games.

England got the section under way with a 3-2 victory against Austria on Sunday before hosts France produced a fine display of attacking football to dismantle the Netherlands 4-1 and delight a crowd of more than 11,000 in Caen. Neither coach is anticipating an easy ride in their second fixtures, however, with Smerecki explaining: "We know a single win is not enough and that tomorrow against Austria it will be another difficult match. We shall go to work again."

The hosts are likely to attract another sizeable crowd to the Stade du Hazé in Flers and, with striker Cédric Bakambu crowning a memorable personal display against the Dutch with two goals, France will be confident of recording a second victory against Austria even if their coach knows similar application will be required. "We've set the tone now but now we have to reach our next objective," Smerecki said. "The first aim, to get off to a good start, is reached but we have other high goals. We took the first step and against Austria we will have to show the same attitude, the same enthusiasm to beat them – otherwise we will have difficulties."

Austria coach Andreas Heraf welcomes back Raphael Holzhauser after the midfielder served a suspension against England and, despite that defeat, has reason for optimism. "We lost our first game to Switzerland in the elite round as well," he told UEFA.com, Austria having recovered from that 3-2 reverse to defeat Serbia and Denmark. "Of course we need every point; we want to at least go to Colombia next year [for the FIFA U-20 World Cup] and if it's possible to the semi-finals here. I know a bit about France, I feel they are the best team in the group."

Blake described England's opening game as a "wake-up call" and knows all about the threat posed by the Netherlands, the teams having shared a 1-1 draw in a March friendly. "It'll be another tough match," the head coach said. "We know what they're about and I'm sure they know what we're about. The friendly was a very good game, so we're expecting a tough match but I'm sure the Dutch coach will be expecting the same. There's a lot more to come from us."

Blake's Netherlands counterpart Wim van Zwam has defender Ricardo van Rhijn available after a one-match ban and is expecting his charges to improve on what he called a "sloppy" opening display. "Based on the first half [against France], we have to improve everything," he said. "That's quite easy – and we can do that, we showed it in the second half. We lost the ball everywhere on the field, weren't that eager to win it again and our lines were too far away from each other. In the second half we did a better job, but we can still do even more."

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