Diels, Belgium Play Their Cards Right

14.08.2011

U16 WOMEN

Belgium coach Arvid Diels thinks that his side has now shown its true colours - and that they can focus on a deep run into the U16 European Championships for Women in Sardinia.

High expectations met his young players when they arrived in Cagliari. It was a shock therefore when they lost to Sweden in their opening game of the tournament. Was it pressure or peaking too soon? Diels has no easy answers.

7. Valeria Alefirenko (Russia)
Russia is strong in size and that might be a problem for Belgium, fears Diels

However with dominating wins over Poland and Slovakia, they start the second round on Monday against unbeaten Russia with their self-belief restored.

"We got the gold medal at the European Youth Olympics last month, we came in here prepared and then we just let ourselves down in the opening game against Sweden," said Diels.

"That really motivated everyone. That was a reason to do our best against Slovakia and Poland. And against the Slovaks, we were as perfect as I could ask for in the first quarter.

"There was talk that we were among the favourites here because we beat Russia in the semi-finals and France in the final last month. I think that result doesn't matter here but we are expecting a lot from ourselves."

In Group E, starting with a 1-1 record, the Belgians will also pit themselves against Greece and the Czech Republic in a six-team pool that will send four into the quarter-finals.

Speed is their very essence, fast breaking, quick thinking, wearing opponents out as they bolt up and down the floor.

It is a tactic that Diels believes gives his side its best opportunity of success. Yet he acknowledges that there will be tough match-ups ahead for a bunch of players who are still finding their way on the international stage.

"This is a great group," he said. "I have six who were born in 1996 which is a really great sign for the future. But when we look at the size and physicality of some of the other teams like Spain and France, it is going to be a challenge.

"But now we will go into the second round and see how we go."

Elsewhere in the group on Monday, the Czechs face Sweden while the Slovaks take on Russia.

While in Group F, unbeaten Spain takes on the Netherlands, Turkey defends its unbeaten record against Hungary while France meets hosts Italy.

"We beat them before this tournament but I don't think that will matter when we play them again," said Italian coach Renato Nani.


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