Format change won't change focus for Crawford

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Format change won't change focus for Crawford

Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager Jim Crawford believes the change in format to the 2019/21 UEFA European Under-21 Championship won't change the focus.
17th Jun 2020

Jim Crawford's Ireland side are currently top of Group One with three matches remaining in the qualifying round which are set to be played in October and November.

Today UEFA announced a new format was approved with the final tournament set to be split over two periods. Original venues in both Hungary and Slovania will host both parts of the final tournament.

The nine group-winners and the five best runners-up will be joined by hosts Hungary and Slovenia for a group stage of four groups of four from March 24 to 31 2021.

The four group-winners and the four runners-up will then qualify for the final tournament which will be played as a straight knock-out final eight from May 31 to June 6 2021.

With the dates for the remaining qualifying group matches to be confirmed, Crawford believes there are benefits to the new format and that his team will be fully focused on winning all remaining qualifying matches.

"I can many benefits to the change in format. Having that break in between the group stage and the knock-out phase, if we were to progress to that stage, it would give us a great opportunity to recover and go again," said U-21 boss Jim Crawford.

"During a finals tournament, you can pick up a number of injuries and fatigue can set in so to have a break in between the two stages could work in your favour.

"It doesn't change the focus for us. We're looking to win the remaining group games and that remains the challenge. We'll be very clear with the players going into each match that maximum points is the goal.

"I'm still digesting the changes but nothing changes in regards to the mindset. The fact we've only got three matches remaining in qualifying whilst a lot of teams are squeezing in their fixtures could also work in our favour but we need to remain concentrated on what we need to do."

The dates for the remaining qualifying group matches against Italy, Iceland and Luxembourg will be confirmed in the coming weeks.