Wim van Zwam is hoping the Netherlands will carry the momentum gained from a last-gasp qualification into Group A as they take on Lithuania, Portugal and Spain.
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The Netherlands were seconds away from missing out on the UEFA European Under-19 Championship again before a Thom Haye goal deep into added time secured a victory against Germany that took Wim van Zwam's team into the finals for the second time. The coach is hoping his side can carry that momentum to Lithuania, where they open against the hosts before taking on Portugal and holders Spain in Group A – yet recognises this will be no easy task.
UEFA.com: What do you make of the draw?
Wim van Zwam: It's tough but it doesn't matter which pool you're in – they're both hard. Most of the time Spain are favourites, they've won the last two tournaments and have six titles. Portugal are always strong too, and then we have the hosts. To play them first is very tough, but this tournament always is.
UEFA.com: Do you know much about Lithuania?
Van Zwam: We played them a couple of years ago; that was a tough game and I expect the same again. We'll make sure we know how they play. They'll be very well prepared for the first match and ready to battle with us, so we must make sure we prepare very well.
UEFA.com: You qualified for the first time in 2010 and are back in the finals again – is your U19 record improving?
Van Zwam: We're always close to qualifying but at this level it comes down to details, and our players don't tend to be that good on those. They think they'll always get another chance, but not in the U19s. We're not that mature; we always make one mistake. For example in the elite round we played Cyprus: they had one shot and scored. We had a lot of chances and all the ball but couldn't score, so we put ourselves in difficulties. We can play very well but have some problems in the decisive moments – not giving chances away and taking our own. I think it's a problem for young Dutch players.
UEFA.com: Will the way you qualified, with a last-minute goal, give you momentum going into the tournament?
Van Zwam: I don't know about that, but it's a quality of the team. There's a lot of players who have come from the U17s and those teams were good at scoring in the final minutes and not giving up. In the elite round we scored late winners against Norway and Germany. They aren't beaten until it's over, and that's a real quality of my team.
UEFA.com: What else can you tell us about your team?
Van Zwam: We have a good defence, midfield is OK. We're a bit weak in attack because our best attackers are in the U21s and we have one player injured so we're missing three players. That's going to be a bit difficult but as a team we know how to play. Our strength is the way we develop teams; from U15 upwards, everybody knows what they have to do. On a bad day we can lose to Cyprus, on a good day we can beat anybody.
UEFA.com: You have plenty of players who featured in the European U17 Championship; will that tournament experience be an advantage?
Van Zwam: I think so; we saw that already against Norway and Germany. They know they can score in the last minute, they have that experience. [Thom Haye] told me after the Germany match that he saw the clock when it was 88 minutes and still 0-0 he thought: 'We can still score; we did it last time and we can do it again.' That's the experience they carry with them. That could be a big advantage.
UEFA.com: What are your hopes for the tournament?
Van Zwam: Our first goal is to reach the semi-finals and then you have to see. We're in a tough group but the other group is just as hard so we just aim for the first match – that's the most important. When you win that you're in the tournament; when you lose it, the pressure is really high. We're just focusing on winning that and hope to do well after that.