All the reaction to the U21 play-off draw

Albert Celades thinks Spain could not have tougher play-off opponents, Luigi Di Biagio sees Slovakia as a good omen, Horst Hrubesch is confident: all the draw reaction.

Coaches and officials including Gareth Southgate watch the draw
Coaches and officials including Gareth Southgate watch the draw ©Getty Images for UEFA

Holders Spain must get past Serbia in the play-offs if they are to go for a third UEFA European Under-21 Championship title in a row next June in the Czech Republic.

Play-off draw
Slovakia v Italy
France v Sweden
Denmark v Iceland
England v Croatia
Netherlands v Portugal
Ukraine v Germany
Serbia v Spain (holders)

Ties: 8–14 October, seven winners join hosts Czech Republic in June finals

Slovakia v Italy
Ondrej Duda, Slovakia midfielder

Italy are strong opponents, although I don't know their players well. But everybody knows Italy have quality in all age groups. Yes, we lost to them last year but it was just a friendly. Now it's a competitive game and this will be different. We will play the first leg at home, so I hope we get an advantage before the second leg.

Luigi Di Biagio, Italy coach
I will go back where I started [having debuted as Italy U21 coach against Slovakia in August 2013], hopefully it's a good omen. Slovakia are a solid team with players that run hard for 90 minutes. They finished above the Netherlands in their group and that's says it all about their strength. A year ago we beat them 4-1 but they went down to ten men in the first half so that result doesn't say much. I think many things have changed since and I expect two difficult games. We have started to show a winning mentality but we must improve in terms of quality to compete with the best teams.

Pierre Mankowski
Pierre Mankowski©Sportsfile

France v Sweden
Pierre Mankowski, France coach
We're going to meet Sweden, a Scandinavian country, like Norway [who knocked out France] in the play-offs in 2012. They came top of their group, ahead of Greece, Poland and Turkey, which shows their worth. They're a solid team, it's going to be difficult. We play the first game at home, though we would have preferred to stage the return. We're now going to watch their most recent games to get to know them a little more.

Håkan Ericson, Sweden coach
An interesting draw. Of course it will be difficult to beat such a good team, but we believe in ourselves and that we have the chance. France will be a fantastic challenge: two matches where we can develop incredibly, both our players and Swedish football in general. The French are clear favourites, but we come with six straight wins and the feeling that we've delivered in dramatic matches with much at stake.

Denmark v Iceland
Nicolaj Thomsen, Denmark midfielder

I do not know a lot about them but I definitely think our chances are good – not so much because of the opposition but because of our own team. The attitude has been that we have feared nobody but have trusted in our own qualities. That attitude is still there, so I think we have a very good chance.

Tómas Ingi Tómasson, Iceland assistant coach
We are ok meeting Denmark, it could have been much worse. I think we have an equal chance of winning as these are similar teams, even though Denmark did better in their group. But I also think our group was more difficult. We know the Danish youth teams have always been very good but it is not a bad draw. We know them well and we have players and coaches from Denmark who can assist us with information. The key is to get a good result in Denmark."

England v Croatia
Gareth Southgate, England manager
For us, it's about maintaining the level of performance we had in the group.


Nenad Gračan, Croatia coach
There were no easy opponents in this round, they were all big names and we knew it would be difficult for us. If it wasn't England, it would be Spain, France, Italy ... But we and my players are very motivated to make that final step to the European Championship – we have quality and motivation and England are not unbeatable. I belive we have everything we need to succeed. We will try to get a good result in the first match and then, with the help of our fans in the second leg, try to reach the final tournament.

Netherlands v Portugal
Adrie Koster, Netherlands coach

We have strong opponents but that's normal. When you want to be European champions, you also have to win the play-off. We don't have the draw in our hands. Portugal are a technical team, us too. So it'll be an interesting game for us. You have to play both games to go through, even though you could say that it's better to start away. Germany and Spain would also have been tough opponents. Maybe it is just good we meet Portugal at this stage now. We cannot hide anymore. We have the opportunity to recover from the two defeats we suffered this week. We now have to show we possess enough quality, and Portugal also will not be too happy to be drawn against us."

Rui Jorge, Portugal coach
If you look at the rankings, the Dutch are always very strong. They are always well thought of. They always play good football, technical football. It's certain that we're going to have two great matches. It doesn't matter that we play away first. The main thing is for us to play well and go through.

Ukraine v Germany
Serhiy Kovalets, Ukraine coach
We feel good after the draw. We have tough opponents and we will play against them at a decent level. The fans will definitely enjoy it. We will prepare for Germany as hard as we did for every match in qualification. We will follow their players at club level, collect data and analyse it. All 14 teams in the play-offs are very strong European sides. It would be interesting to play every one of them. It is great that Ukraine are among them.

Horst Hrubesch, Germany coach
I'm happy with the draw because I think we have a feasible task. Of course Ukraine are difficult opponents, but my team have proved they can solve difficult tasks and were deserved group winners. The fact we can rely on the support of our fans at home in Essen in the return leg, I see as a further advantage. We want to win both games and qualify for the European Championship.

Serbia v Spain
Radovan Ćurčić, Serbia coach
We got the European champions in the draw. For sure, Spain are the hardest possible opponents for us at the moment. It will be a privilege and challenge to play against them. My opinion about Spain is that they have the best U21 generation at the moment in Europe. We'll play, enjoy it and try to be at the highest level.

Albert Celades, Spain coach
Serbia are one of the hardest opponents we could have faced – a team that were in a tough group with Italy and Belgium and had an impressive second-place finish. No doubt they will be very tough opponents.