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Holders Serbia set sights on finals return

Hosts the Republic of Ireland, Turkey and Iceland mean that Group 4 is "so tough" according to Serbia coach Veljko Paunović, who is nevertheless in bullish mood.

Goalkeeper Predrag Rajković was part of Serbia's victorious 2013 team
Goalkeeper Predrag Rajković was part of Serbia's victorious 2013 team ©Sportsfile

Serbia lifted the crown for the first time in Lithuania last summer and can still call upon five of those players this time round. "We want to give everything to find a place in the final tournament," said coach Veljko Paunović, whose side have played only two friendlies since the qualifying round – 4-0 and 2-0 victories against the Czech Republic – with a final warm-up against Hungary. "Our opponents will be so tough, but we must concentrate on our abilities and our targets."

Qualifying round: Kazakhstan 3-0, Finland 1-0, Austria 1-0 (Group 7 winners)

Key players: Predrag Rajković (FK Crvena zvezda, goalkeeper), Miloš Veljković (Tottenham Hotspur FC, defender), Sergej Milinković-Savić (FK Vojvodina, midfielder)

Republic of Ireland
Paul Doolin's side warmed up for hosting the elite round with 0-3 and 0-2 losses at home to Mexico, the second defeat proving particularly costly as Sheffield United FC midfielder Connor Dimaoi suffered an injury that rules him out of the mini-tournament. "In my experience any elite round is never easy," said Doolin, who took Ireland to the 2011 semi-finals. "We will aim for the Iceland game, which is our first fixture, and work from there."

Qualifying round: Azerbaijan 2-0, Sweden 1-0, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 (Group 3 winners)

Key players: Kyle McFadden (defender, Norwich City FC), Alan Browne (midfielder, Preston North End FC), Sam Byrne (forward, Manchester United FC)

Qualifiers for the fifth time in 2013, Turkey are without a win in their six warm-up friendlies, losing 1-0 and 3-1 to the Netherlands in October before two 2-2 draws against Slovakia the following month. They lost 3-0 away to England in March and were defeated by Hungary 5-2 last month but coach Vedat İnceefe remains optimistic, saying: "We've not had much time to transmit our playing mentality to the players effectively; we're now able to do it as we have a longer camp. We've had some difficulties, we have some injured players and the main problem we have is defence and positioning. We're working on this; hopefully we'll be successful and take our place in the finals."

Qualifying round: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 4-1, Faroe Islands 2-0, Montenegro 1-2 (Group 12 winners)

Key players: Recep Niyaz (midfielder, Bucaspor), Muhammed Demirci (midfielder, Beşiktaş JK), Mustafa Batuhan Altuntaş (forward, Bursaspor)

Having eliminated last season's runners-up France in the qualifying round, Kristinn Rúnar Jonsson and his charges face another stern challenge in Ireland. "We know it's a difficult group with holders Serbia but we have an experienced squad, hardened after U17 finals and we've lost only one of our last 12 games, against Belgium [in the qualifying round]," said the coach, whose side reached the U17 tournament two years ago. "We had the luxury of 30 players battling for the final squad. We know every game is tough but everyone wants to show their skills, so we're ready."

Qualifying round: France 2-2, Belgium 0-2, Northern Ireland 1-0 (Group 4 runners-up)

Key players: Hjörtur Hermansson (defender, PSV Eindhoven), Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson (goalkeeper, FC Nordsjælland), Orri Sigurdur Ómarsson (defender, AGF Aarhus), Oliver Sigurjónsson (midfielder, AGF Aarhus), Kristján Flóki Finnbogason (forward, FC København)

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