Ire­land primed to take on Bel­gium in group opener

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS -

The Repub­lic of Ire­land Un­der-17s are set for their Uefa Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship group opener against Bel­gium at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity Sta­dium this evening (kick-off 5.45).

Colin O’Brien’s side go into the tour­na­ment as top seeds fol­low­ing an im­pres­sive qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign that saw them win six games from six – all away from home.

This is the sec­ond year in suc­ces­sion the un­der-17s have played at the fi­nals, with last year’s quar­ter-fi­nal ap­pear­ance the best yet since the tour­na­ment was re­graded in 2000.

O’Brien can call on five play­ers from last year’s edi­tion in Croa­tia with team cap­tain Nathan Collins, top scorer Adam Idah, Southamp­ton de­fender Kameron Led­widge, Wolves mid­fielder Cal­lum Thomp­son and Aston Villa’s Tyreik Wright back for a sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the fi­nals.

O’Brien said: “Bel­gium will be a for­mi­da­ble out­fit, they have had a very strong youth de­vel­op­ment struc­ture and sys­tem within their coun­try for the last num­ber of years you can see that in some of the play­ers they have pro­duced.

“They’ll be a very pos­ses­sion based team.”

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