Russia will be aiming to become the first nation to win the finals two years after taking the U17 crown. Coach Dmitri Khomukha told UEFA.com why his side should be feared in Greece.
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Made up of a core of players who lifted the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship trophy in Slovakia, Russia will be aiming to become the first nation to win the U19 event two years after taking the U17 crown.
Dmitri Khomukha's charges will compete in Group B – against the Netherlands, Germany and Spain – but the coach insists it is their opponents who should fear his team in the "group of death". Ahead of the finals, Khomukha told UEFA.com about Russia's preparations and his future.
UEFA.com: Were you able to name your strongest squad for the tournament in Greece?
Dmitri Khomukha: We lost three players to injury – Vladislav Parshikov and Aleksandr Tenyayev, as well as striker Aleksandr Makarov. Ramil Sheydaev – the top scorer during qualifying with ten goals – will miss our training camp and join the team on 1 July. Finally, our key defender Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov will miss the first game versus the Netherlands through suspension.
UEFA.com: Russia eased into the finals, winning all three games. However, now you face the likes of defending champions Germany – are your players ready to face more experienced opposition?
Khomukha: The experience that we gained has given us hope that we are the team that should be feared. We respect everyone, but we are not afraid of anyone. We'll go to Greece full of confidence. I have to agree, all our opponents are top class and they continue to produce players for their senior sides – some of them even feature for their respective clubs. Obviously they are strong, but I believe we'll be worthy opponents.
UEFA.com: Group A features Austria, France, Greece and Ukraine – would you prefer to be in that section?
Khomukha: All the teams that take part in finals came through tough groups to qualify. Each and every one of them deserves full credit for progressing – Ukraine or Austria could perform better than Germany or Netherlands.
UEFA.com: Nobody in your squad features regularly for their clubs. Does this bother you?
Khomukha: There's a tradition abroad to trust young players, and they fully deserve it. However, our lads do play too – Nikita Chernov and Aleksandr Golovin have already made their debuts for the senior side. Both play for PFC CSKA Moskva once in a while, but it's true that my players don't get enough playing time, which would help them to grow.
UEFA.com: Have your players become more ambitious since the U17 triumph in Slovakia?
Khomukha: Without doubt they have changed. Some have already trained with the senior squad and you can see their [improved] professionalism. They are older now and you don't need to explain simple things anymore. They understand perfectly now that to achieve something you have to sacrifice something first.
UEFA.com: It's your fifth year in charge. Will you stay on after the finals with your squad set to progress to the U21 and senior sides?
Khomukha: The coaching staff have completed their mission. Our main goal was to prepare them for the U21 side, and most will be selected for that team. Regarding my future, my contract expires at the end of the year, so we'll talk with the Russian Football Union and make a decision together.