Tom Mohan reflects on UEFA U17 draws
REPUBLIC of Ireland U17 Head Coach Tom Mohan has reacted to the UEFA U17 Championships draws that were made in Nyon today.
The Elite Phase of this season’s UEFA U17 Championships qualifiers sees Ireland facing hosts Poland, Belaraus and Greece with the games set for March 21, 23 and 26 in the Poznan region.
UEFA recently opted to expand the UEFA U17 Championships to 16 teams so the eight group winners and the seven best runners-up qualify to join hosts Bulgaria at the finals from May 6–22, 2015.
These finals will also be acting as Europe's qualifier for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile – UEFA having been allocated six berths, which will go to the four semi-finalists and the winners of two play-offs involving beaten quarter-finalists.
"The Elite Phase is tough but we believe we can be competitive. Poland were the No.1 seeds and are the hosts. They won all three in qualifiers so are obviously a very good side,” said Mohan.
“We've played Greece several times and know that they'll always be difficult opposition. They didn't concede a goal in the Qualifying Round. Belarus will be difficult too. They were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Russia in qualifiers and beat Wales and Macedonia.
“We're preparing as well as we can so we will be ready for late March. The way it’s structured all of the sides will go there thinking they have a chance of progressing.”
Mohan is in the Netherlands this week on his UEFA Pro Licence course visiting clubs including Ajax and PEC Zwolle. He believes the draw for next season’s UEFA U17 Championship Qualifying Round is a tough one.
Ireland have been drawn in Group 3 of the 2015-16 UEFA U17 Championships Qualifying Round with Sweden, Malta and hosts Finland making up the group. These fixtures will take place on September 24, 26 and 29.
" We've played Sweden before and they were very good. Malta have improved so it's not going to be easy. Finland are also strong and will want to progress as hosts,” said Mohan.
The top two in each group along with the five third-placed teams with the best record against the leading pair will join Germany in the elite round in spring 2016. That will eventually decide the 15 teams to join hosts Azerbaijan in the finals in May 26.