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Poland v Slovakia background

Hosts Poland and Slovakia will both end long absences from the Under-21 finals when they meet for the first time in Lublin on the opening day of Group A.

The Lublin Stadium will stage Poland-Slovakia
The Lublin Stadium will stage Poland-Slovakia ©PZPN

Poland and Slovakia will end their long absences from the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2017 – and both will be eager to hit the ground running when they meet in the opening round of Group A fixtures in Lublin.

Previous meetings
• The teams have met in only two competitive U21 fixtures, in qualifying for the 1996 finals. Each won their home game, with Poland running out 1-0 victors in Katowice on 6 June 1995 through Marcin Mieciel's goal, and Slovakia claiming a 3-1 success in Trnava on 10 October the same year with Róbert Sémenik scoring twice.

Match background

• Poland qualified automatically as hosts.

• Poland are in the finals for the first time since 1994. That year, they reached the quarter-finals, equalling their best-ever performance in the competition; they also got to the last eight in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1992.

• Poland's 1994 squad included Jacek Bąk, Tomasz Hajto and Piotr Świerczewski, who all earned over 50 caps for the senior national side, while Tomasz Rząsa was a 2002 UEFA Cup winner with Feyenoord.

• Slovakia won six of their eight qualifiers, suffering just one defeat, to finish five points clear at the top of qualifying Group 8. Adam Zreľák top-scored with five goals, one more than Martin Chrien.

• Slovakia's sole previous U21 finals appearance was in 2000, when they came fourth on home soil. A team featuring Kamil Čontofalský, Vratislav Greško, Radoslav Zabavník, Marek Mintál, Szilárd Németh, Karol Kisel, Peter Hlinka and Martin Petráš beat Turkey and England in the group stage to finish second in their section and, with no semi-finals, progressed to the third-place play-off where they succumbed 1-0 to Spain.

• Czechoslovakia reached the U21 quarter-finals on six occasions, but never went any further in the competition.

Coach and player links
• Slovakia's Jaroslav Mihalík and Tomáš Vestenický both play in Poland for Cracovia, where they are team-mates of Krzysztof Piątek.

• Slovak midfielder Lukáš Haraslín has been at Lechia Gdańsk since 2015.

• Slovakia coach Pavel Hapal was in charge of Polish club Zagłębie Lubin between 2011 and 2013. Jarosław Jach was among his squad.

Coach profiles

Marcin Dorna, Poland
Started his coaching career while still a physical education student, working with children aged between nine and 11 at UKS GOSIR Dopiewo, a small club close to Poznan. Moved on to work in the youth set-up at Lech Poznań, training the teams from Under-10 to U15 levels over a period of six and a half years.

Joined the Polish Football Association (PZPN) in 2008, initially coaching the U15 to U18 sides and leading the U17s to the semi-finals of their UEFA European Championship in 2012. Took charge of the U21s in January 2013.

Pavel Hapal, Slovakia
A left-sided midfielder whose attacking instincts made him a regular goalscorer, Hapal had four spells totalling six years at Sigma Olomouc, helping the club reach the 1991/92 UEFA Cup quarter-finals before moving to Germany and Bayer Leverkusen. Also had a stint in Spain with Tenerife and represented both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic at international level, breaking his leg a month before EURO ' 96.

Retired aged 32 in 2002 and moving into coaching the next year, working in his Czech homeland and Poland as well as enjoying success with three Slovak clubs – Nitra, Senica and most notably Žilina, whom Hapal steered to the league title in 2010 and the UEFA Champions League group stage the following seasons. A coach whose teams are based on a strong unit and fighting spirit, he took the U21 reins in January 2015.