U21 finals draw: all the reaction
Thursday, 10 December 2020
We round up the reaction in the wake of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals draw.
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The draw for next year's UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Hungary and Slovenia took place on 10 December; see what the sides had to say about their prospects.
Group A: Hungary (hosts), Germany, Romania, Netherlands
Zoltán Gera, Hungary coach
Germany are always strong; they often perform well in such tournaments, so we'll have a very hard job, but we are happy that we can be here and play and take part in the European Championship. The main point is to give it our all and to enjoy every minute of the games.
Then Romania will follow, at the Bozsik Aréna. Since they are a neighbouring country of ours, Hungary vs Romania fixtures are always exciting. They were also semi-finalists last time, and Gheorghe Hagi's son, Ianis Hagi, is in the team. [The Netherlands] scored the most goals [in qualifying]. We are yet again talking about very strong opponents.
Stefan Kuntz, Germany coach
I would have preferred a different group, but it could have been even worse, so in that respect, as my grandmother always said, there is no need to get upset over things you can't change. So we'll take it as it is. I think the Netherlands are the favourites in our group this year, which doesn't mean that we won't fight for first place.
Hungary have amazing talents: one of the most sought after [Dominik Szoboszlai] plays for Salzburg, so we are looking forward to going up against them. Erwin van de Looi, my counterpart from the Dutch U21 side, has a couple of exceptional talents. [Justin] Kluivert plays at Leipzig; we saw him against Bayern. We know him from the Bundesliga and know what to expect. They averaged nearly five goals a game in qualification, they won 7-0 twice, so we're up against a fantastic side.
Erwin van de Looi, Netherlands coach
It's a great draw. Hungary are the hosts. Germany are a team that we know well, and they're also a rival of ours. At the moment, Romania are a bit of an outsider for us, but we're looking forward to the tournament, no matter how the draw had turned out.
Let's not be arrogant. Normally, the Dutch are a little bit arrogant, but let's not. It's been a long time since we last reached the finals. We're very ambitious and really eager, and I must say that we played some fantastic games in the qualifiers against a very strong Portuguese team. We have a team with very talented strikers. We'll have to see who will be available for us in March.
Adrian Mutu, Romania coach
It's a very difficult group, as the host country Hungary and the Netherlands and Germany are very strong teams. I was looking at how great at attacking the Netherlands were during previous games.
Germany are a strong team. Of course we want a rematch and we're looking forward to it. That's because this is our objective, to match our past performance and be better than during the previous EURO [when Germany beat Romania in the semi-finals]. After all, we need to face them all. We're not scared; we're not afraid of anything. It's true that it's a difficult group, but we believe in ourselves and I'm sure that we'll perform well.
Group B: Slovenia (hosts), Spain (holders), Czech Republic, Italy
Milenko Ačimovič, Slovenia coach
We all know what Spain and Italy represent in football, especially in youth teams. They regularly win championships or at least play in the finals. I also know the Czech team quite well. I've seen quite few of their matches and I know what we are up against. All three matches will be very, very hard.
We know the teams we will play against and the kind of superstars we will meet on the pitch. They are not only superstars in their respective U21 teams but also superstars in top-flight football. Very difficult and very interesting matches await us.
Luis de la Fuente, Spain coach
[Italy] are dangerous opponents but we should not forget Slovenia and the Czech Republic. We always start with the fundamental premise of being respectful towards all our opponents. Because every opponent can make things difficult for you in such a short tournament, where it is essential to have good results from the start.
First of all, we want to think about Slovenia, as they are our first opponents, and then about whoever comes after. We know we cannot fail in any of the games so that we can get to our final game against Italy and, obviously, have the chance to get one of the two places to get into the quarter-finals.
Karel Krejčí, Czech Republic coach
I am very glad we can be in this company. I wasn't nervous before this draw because all the teams are very strong. Firstly, the group seems quite fine. Spain and Italy are among Europe's top teams. We will prepare for these matches and we will fight to reach the quarter-finals.
I believe we'll be able to perform well against Italy. Spain will be the main contenders to win the group. Slovenia didn't play in qualifying, so we're trying to gather some information about them. As co-hosts, they've had a long time to prepare, and I know the match against them will not be easy, but we will finish the group with that game and I believe there will still be something to play for.
Paolo Nicolato, Italy coach
I, like everyone, expect Spain to win the EURO or at least get close, because they are the favourites. So, for us, they will be a real test. It's also difficult to predict our form, because between now and March 2021, so many things can happen or change. We've faced Slovenia in a friendly match, and they are preparing themselves. They are going to be motivated to do well in this European Championship at home, so we respect them.
The Czech Republic always have a very strong U21 team. They have played in quite a few European tournaments at a high level. We faced them in the U19 tournament, again in the group stage, and they are a team that always has very talented players.
Group C: Russia, Iceland, France, Denmark
Mikhail Galaktionov, Russia coach
We played against both Iceland and France at U17 level. Iceland stood out to us as a very strong outfit that plays good football. As for France, they're a top side whose players practically all play in [top] leagues in Europe. We do not know that much about this particular [Denmark team] but we familiarised ourselves with the games played by previous generations in the Danish youth set-up.
When we took over the team two and a half years ago, we knew this big group of players was the generation that had been nurtured to succeed and to win. Players from this age group won bronze medals at the U17 European Championship; they qualified for the [2015 FIFA] U-17 World Cup in Chile and they performed pretty well. We haven't just come here to make up the numbers; we want to create a nice surprise and do more than expected.
Arnar Vidarsson, Iceland coach
There aren't many, or indeed any, easy teams at this stage. We'll just approach this calmly. We're proud to have made it to the finals. It really is great to take part in this tournament and to be drawn against some great teams. When you take a quick look at the teams, it looks as though the group stage in March will be quite even and fun, but we're obviously not going to Hungary to have fun.
We're going to Hungary to succeed and improve as a team and as individuals. So, our expectations are first and foremost that our players gain a certain level of experience. This is a big stage, and these are important matches. These are matches that our players can draw on long into the future. So, that's where our expectations lie.
Sylvain Ripoll, France coach
We'll face Denmark, who were the only team alongside Spain and England to go unbeaten in these qualifiers. Russia have one of the best defences and they also finished top of their group. And then there's the Iceland team, who managed to make it through a very difficult group, with Italy, Sweden and Ireland. It will be an interesting and high-level group.
Many teams can be seen as favourites when you look at all the names involved in the EURO. In any case, a lot of teams will be aiming to reach the final stages of the tournament, and France will be one of them, obviously. Whatever your ambitions, the most important thing will be the way we perform and act so we can be consistent and hope to go far in this tournament.
Albert Capellas, Denmark coach
We'll start the tournament against France and I think this is a great match to start the tournament. We are going to tackle the match in the best possible way, as France will also probably try to do. And, above all, we hope we'll have an enjoyable and entertaining match, which people will enjoy, and may the best team win!
Iceland are kind of our siblings, right? We have a very good relationship with Iceland and, actually, every time we face each other, there is a great sense of friendship, you might say. Statistics [like Denmark having won all four U21 EURO games against Russia] are for journalists. They're very interesting, they add value to the tournament and everything that's going on. But, from my point of view, as a coach, we're going to tackle this game like any other game and do everything we can to win. I'm not a coach that looks to the past. The past has already happened. It's there, it's true. It builds your confidence, but that's it.
Group D: Portugal, Croatia, England, Switzerland
Rui Jorge, Portugal coach
It'll certainly be an excellent group, with three teams that got more than 27 points [in qualifying], Portugal and Switzerland with 27 and England with 28. They're teams that proved to be consistent and reliable throughout qualification, and Croatia are traditionally a team with a lot of technical and individual quality.
Our expectations are to show that the Portuguese team has a high level of quality, not only individually but also as a team. It's something that we'll try to do – try to play well in the way Portugal can and show the quality of these Portuguese players, and then, obviously, in sporting terms, we'd like to finish in the top two places so that we can keep fighting to win the tournament.
Igor Bišćan, Croatia coach
If I have to evaluate the quality of the group we were drawn in, I'd have to say that all of our opponents are serious. These are very good teams.
England and Portugal have a tradition of developing young players that can become superstars even at this age. Switzerland have shown that they can play on level terms even against the best teams so we will be playing in a very tough group. They can play at a high level and they are always favourites to win. So, the group is hard. The teams are top quality, but we know that we're a good team and we believe in ourselves. I think we can hope for a good result.
Aidy Boothroyd, England manager
[Croatia] are always a very strong side. They are a very fine side, produce some wonderful players, playing [in] a really stylish manner, and it will be a very, very tough game for us. When I saw the group, I looked at everybody and thought: "They've all got massive strengths."
We haven't won the tournament since 1984. So, we've got a long way to go when we look at the Italian record, the German record, the Spanish record. It puts it all into perspective what they've done over that period. We've had unprecedented success for the English FA, over the last few years [winning U-17 and U-20 World Cups among other honours]. But the important thing I think is that it's about longevity, it's about being good and at the top for a long period of time, rather than just being a shooting star.
Mauro Lustrinelli, Switzerland coach
It's a nice group, but this is what we're after. Our goal is really to play against the best teams. For ten years, we've been unable to reach the final stages. We'll face England, Portugal and Croatia, three great teams.
I think it's a very open group. We've got England, who won nine [qualifying] games. Portugal did the same thing. Croatia also had a good qualifying campaign, especially in the second half of qualifying. So, it means there are four very good teams, and I think the points will be shared around among each team. That's why it's going to be a very open group.