Liechtenstein's got talent
Glenn Lavery in Schaan
Tuesday, 18 May, 2010
The U17 Euros offer future stars the chance to impress.
UEFA European U17 Championship
Tuesday 18 May - Sunday 30 May 2010
Group A France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland
Group B England, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey
Covering an area of just 62 square miles Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in the world but, despite being 148th in the FIFA rankings, over the next two weeks this small principality might just create its own football legacy.
Liechtenstein is preparing to host the ninth edition of the UEFA European U17 Championship Finals, a competition that has provided a platform for many of the game’s leading lights to demonstrate their emerging talent on the international stage.
In 2002 Wayne Rooney was named Player of the Tournament, as was Cesc Fabregas in 2004 and Barcelona’s Bojan Krkić in 2007. In 1993 Thierry Henry starred for France when the competition was for U16 players. Luis Figo and Nicolas Anelka also featured for Portugal and France respectively when the tournament was in its former guise, while, more recently, Fernando Torres and David Silva were key performers for Spain in 2001. The year Rooney picked up his individual accolade, in Denmark, Gaël Clichy and Philippe Senderos also featured in the tournament, as did Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
These players have gone on to make a real name for themselves across the footballing world and it is left for this year’s intake to try and follow suit. As England forward Benik Afobe says, “If you do well in this tournament, you don’t know what the future might hold for you.” So, who are the players to look out for over the next two weeks?
In Francisco Alcacer (also known as Paco), Spain possess a prolific striker who netted eight goals in six qualifying matches, one more than Switzerland’s Stjepan Vuleta and both forwards will be looking to fire their countries out of Group A, where they will take on France and Marseille’s Bilel Omrani, who scored a hat-trick against Wales in the qualifiers, and Portugal, for whom João Carlos is the midfield heartbeat.
In Group B, Artun Akçakin was Turkey’s top scorer in the qualifiers while Jakub Sokolík marshalled a mean Czech Republic defence during qualification that saw them concede just two goals. Dimitrios Diamantakos is the Greece skipper and, like Vuleta, he too scored seven goals in six qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Head Coach John Peacock will be looking to mastermind an historic first-ever triumph for England at these Euros and at the pre-tournament press conference he spoke of his satisfaction with all 18 squad members and said they would all “have a big part to play” during the tournament. A number of players impressed for the Young Lions throughout the qualification campaign and Peacock will be hoping they can bring that level of performance to Liechtenstein.
England’s first Group B game sees them take on Czech Republic in Vaduz this evening.
You can follow the U17s’ European campaign right here on TheFA.com as we will bring you previews before every game, in-depth coverage of each of England’s matches and all the post-match reaction from inside the camp.