UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

England face stern Group 1 challenge

Noel Blake's England are eager for a finals return having missed out last year, and have home advantage as they bid to overcome Ukraine, Montenegro and Scotland.

England coach Noel Blake
England coach Noel Blake ©David Catry

Noel Blake has guided England to the finals in two of his four seasons in charge, losing out at this stage in 2011 and last year, and has named a squad with five representatives from FA Youth Cup winners Chelsea FC. England have beaten Hungary 4-1 and Turkey 3-0 since topping their qualifying section and with Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Welbeck and Ross Barkley recent U19 graduates, the coach is aware of the opportunities provided. "These guys have had tournament experience and that can only be beneficial to their development," Blake said of the trio, who are now in England's FIFA World Cup squad. "If we can keep giving these players tournaments, by the time they get to the seniors they will have several tournaments under their belts."

Qualifying round: Slovenia 1-1, Andorra 7-0, Switzerland 1-0 (Group 9 winners)

Key players: Shay Facey (defender, Manchester City FC), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (midfielder, Chelsea FC), Devante Cole (Manchester City FC)

After winning the 2009 tournament on home soil, Ukraine have fallen in the elite round in every season and coach Oleksandr Petrakov has opted not to call up Eduard Sobol, a title winner with FC Shakhtar Donetsk this season, although FC Karpaty Lviv's first-choice goalkeeper Roman Pidkivka is included. "We respect all our elite round opponents yet we can beat any of them," Petrakov said. "Our main goal is to realise the potential of both individuals and the whole team so we can finally reach the finals."

Qualifying round: Estonia 3-1, Malta 4-0, Russia 1-1 (Group 13 runners-up)

Key players: Artem Radchenko (striker, FC Metalist Kharkiv), Ihor Kharatin (midfielder, FC Dynamo Kyiv), Taras Kacharaba (defender, FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Viktor Kovalenko (midfielder, FC Shakhtar Donetsk)

In the elite round for the fourth time in a row, Montenegro have never gone further and suffered two defeats against Denmark in March (1-2, 1-3) before visiting Wales for a 2-0 loss and a goalless draw last month. With FK Vojvodina goalkeeper Marko Kordić injured and PSV Eindhoven forward Aleksandar Boljević suspended, coach Aleksandar Miljenović said: "We have a small base and every absence is a huge blow, but we're not worried, because our main objective was reaching the elite round again. Our only goal now is to play the best we can and try to surprise people, but the most important thing is that our players have three more matches to gain experience."

Qualifying round: Faroe Island 5-0, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1-2, Turkey 2-1 (Group 12 runners-up)

Key players: Nebojša Kosović (midfielder, R. Standard de Liège), Marko Janković (midfielder, Olympiacos FC), Danilo Šarkić (defender, SV Zulte Waregem), Boris Cmiljanić (forward, FK Budućnost Podgorica)

Having missed out on the elite round for the last two years, Scotland warmed up with a 4-2 friendly win against Switzerland at Livingston on 5 March. "We played very well," manager Ricky Sbragia told UEFA.com. "Unfortunately our April programme had to be cancelled due to the unavailability of players, but in hindsight that might turn out to be a blessing as they have all been playing for their clubs. We go into these games with confidence."

Qualifying round: Latvia 1-1, Belarus 1-0, Germany 1-1 (Group 5 runners-up)

Key players: Denny Johnstone (forward, Celtic FC), Ryan Gauld (midfielder, Dundee United FC), Sam Nicholson (winger, Heart of Midlothian FC)