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Belodedici excited by Under-19s in Romania

Ex-Romania defender Miodrag Belodedici, director of his country's youth teams, says the Under-19 finals represent a great opportunity for their up-and-coming players to develop.

Miodrag Belodedici in his playing days at UEFA EURO 2000
Miodrag Belodedici in his playing days at UEFA EURO 2000 ©Getty Images

Famed for winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup with two different teams, Miodrag Belodedici is now tasked with producing the next generation of Romanian talent – and sees the UEFA European Under-19 Championship on home soil as the perfect opportunity.

Director of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) youth department, Belodedici has a particular interest in the U19 finals taking place from 20 July to 1 August, for which the draw is made in Bucharest on Wednesday.

Having already experienced one European junior tournament at first hand this summer, as Romania made their U17 finals debut in Serbia last month, former FC Steaua Bucureşti and FK Crvena zvezda defender Belodedici is delighted by the platform that hosting the U19 tournament will afford his young players.

"Of course it will be a great opportunity for them," Belodedici, 47, told UEFA.com. "It is the dream of every young player to take part in a final tournament. For them it will be a chance to show their ability, especially as there will be many people there, and to see where they stand against the best players."

Indeed, although Belodedici played at two UEFA European Championships and the 1994 FIFA World Cup, he wishes he had benefited from such an international showcase at a younger age. "If I had played at this level as a youngster I would have grown in strength and skill much faster," he said. "I would have worked a lot harder. I would have gained desire and experience. By playing these games you grow, you don't have time to be distracted. "

Romania's U17 qualification was their first at either that or U19 level for a decade and while results for the older team have been less encouraging recently with losses to Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Belodedici is optimistic. "We began our preparations a long time ago," he said. "We are really looking forward to the finals, to showing the ability we have, even though we have not been at our best in recent friendlies. We know what the best teams have to offer, so we know where we have to improve."

Belodedici is also confident that holding the tournament in southern Romania will help bring fans back to his country's stadiums. "Many supporters have lost interest in football," he explained. "But we will try and attract them by going to schools and involving the media. The matches will be played in places where people will come to watch. We will play matches outside Bucharest where the national team have only been seen on TV. We will promote the tournament with TV ads, banners and in schools. We hope everyone comes to watch."

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