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Portugal aim for Group 7 progress

Hosts Portugal will be wary of the Under-19 pedigree of Belgium and Greece, and Wales also have cause for optimism having qualified in remarkable fashion.

Portugal lost out to Serbia in last year's semi-finals
Portugal lost out to Serbia in last year's semi-finals ©Sportsfile

Beaten on penalties by eventual champions Serbia in last year's semi-finals, Portugal boast a team including SL Benfica defenders João Nunes and Pedro Rebocho, midfielder Raphael Guzzo and forward Nuno Santos as they seek to qualify for their third finals in a row. Runners-up in 2003, Portugal prepared with a tournament in Porto in mid-April, where they beat Georgia (4-1), Czech Republic (3-0) and Russia (4-0). "This is an excellent starting point; we have excellent foundations here and we want to keep developing them," said coach Hélio Sousa. "Our goal is to get to the finals, but always with the competitive development of the players in mind. We face tough opponents, so we'll have to be at our best."

Qualifying round: Luxembourg 3-0, San Marino 6-0, Norway 3-2 (Group 8 winners)

Key players: Tomás Podstawski (midfielder, FC Porto); Raphael Guzzo (midfielder, SL Benfica); Marcos Lopes (midfielder, Manchester City FC); Gelson Martins (forward, Sporting Clube de Portugal)

Having not reached the finals since 2011, Belgium's preparations have included a 2-2 home draw against Italy in November before Austria were beaten 3-1 in March, although April's trip to Germany ended in a 5-2 loss. "We realise it will be tough to qualify," coach Gert Verheyen told UEFA.com. "Portugal are the favourites, they're at home and have the deepest squad. We need good results against Wales and Greece, which won't be a piece of cake, before playing Portugal in the final game. We're looking at it match by match."

Qualifying round: Northern Ireland 2-0, Iceland 2-0, France 2-2 (Group 4 winners)

Key players: François Marquet (midfielder, R. Standard de Liège), Théo Bongonda (forward, SV Zulte Waregem), Siebe Schrijvers (forward, KRC Genk), Tuur Dierckx (forward, Club Brugge KV)

Runners-up in 2007 and 2012, head coach Theodoros Pachatouridis believes Greece have their work cut out this year, saying: "Portugal and Belgium both have quality players while Wales are a classic British team that never give up until the end. Our task is tough, but we are confident that we can bring our best. Our strongest point is our attack and hopefully we will score the goals to go through." Greece drew 2-2 with Norway in March and beat Cyprus 1-0 in May, passing up a number of opportunities for more goals in both games.

Qualifying round: Albania 1-0, Bulgaria 1-1, Slovakia 3-3 (Group 6 winners)

Key players: Taxiarchis Fountas (attacking midfielder, SV Grödig), Tasos Donis (forward, Juventus), Nikos Vergos (forward, Olympiacos FC), Dimitris Myrthianos (defender, Panathinaikos FC)

Warm-up results have been far more stable than in qualifying for Geraint Williams' side, with a 2-0 victory over Montenegro in April in Newport followed by a goalless draw against the same opposition. Wales also kept two clean sheets in their three qualifying fixtures, and their 6-0 win over Moldova in the final game enabled them to qualify for this stage; they head to Portugal in confident mood. "The players believed we could do it, and that was the most important thing," said Williams after the surprise scoreline and victory. "They carried the game plan out perfectly and did a great job for their country."

Qualifying round: Georgia 1-5, Netherlands 0-0, Moldova 6-0 (Group 11 runners-up)

Key players: Thomas O'Sullivan (midfielder, Cardiff City FC), Bradley Reid (midfielder, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Declan John (defender, Cardiff City FC), Joshua Sheehan (midfielder, Swansea City AFC)