Poland and Belgium are meeting for the first time in the U21 finals as Group A kicks off.
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Poland and Belgium will both know the importance of making a strong start to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship as they meet in the opening round of Group A fixtures.
• While Poland are in the finals for the second tournament in succession, they bowed out at the first hurdle on home soil in 2017 having failed to win a game, despite scoring in the first minute of their opening fixture against Slovakia.
• Belgium – who, like their opponents, came through their qualifying group unbeaten – have not featured at this stage for 12 years and, with U21 finals regulars Italy and Spain lying in wait in the section, will be equally keen to kick off with a positive result.
• This will be the sides' first competitive meeting at U21 level. They drew 0-0 in a friendly in Belgium back in April 2003, Poland's Jacek Kowalczyk having scored the only goal of another friendly the previous year.
• Poland were 2-0 winners against Belgium in a European U17 Championship qualifier in October 2013. Filip Jagiełło captained the Poland team; Nordin Jackers and Wout Faes were in Belgium's starting line-up, with Casper De Norre on the bench.
• Poland are in the final tournament for the second time; two years ago, as hosts, they finished fourth in Group A behind England, Slovakia and Sweden having picked up one point from their three matches.
• That was the Poles' first appearance in the U21 finals in the competition's current guise; they had previously reached the quarter-finals in 1994, losing 5-1 over two legs against Portugal (1-3 home, 0-2 away).
• Those 1994 matches marked Poland's fifth appearance in the last eight; they were also eliminated at that stage in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1992.
• Although undefeated in their qualifying section, Poland had to be content with second place in Group 3 behind Denmark. The Poles took 22 points from their ten matches – one less than the Danes – winning six of their fixtures and drawing the other four. They then eliminated Portugal in the play-offs, recovering from a first-leg home defeat (0-1) to win 3-1 away.
• Poland are yet to win a group stage match in the final tournament, drawing one of their three games and losing the other two.
• This is Belgium's third U21 finals, and a first since 2007. Then they reached the semi-finals across the border in the Netherlands, losing 2-0 to Serbia in the last four.
• The Young Devils' only other appearance in the final tournament came in Switzerland in 2002, when they finished third in their group behind France and eventual champions the Czech Republic having picked up three points from their three matches.
• Belgium's record in the final tournament is therefore W2 D2 L3 F5 A8.
• One of five countries unbeaten in qualification, Johan Walem's team won eight of their ten games en route to these finals, drawing the other two to finish six points clear of Sweden at the top of Group 6. They won their last seven qualifiers, keeping clean sheets in the last four while scoring 13 times themselves.
Links and trivia
• Poland midfielder Jakub Piotrowski joined Genk on a three-year contract from Pogoń Szczecin in summer 2018, making six UEFA Europa League appearances and five in the league as the Belgian club claimed the title. His team-mates included Jackers, De Norre and Bryan Heynen.
• Poland captain Dawid Kownacki was the top scorer in the qualifying competition, with 11 goals – ten in the group stage, including six penalties, and another in the play-offs.