Familiar foes for Greece U21 in 2021 European Championship qualifying
The draw for the qualifying stages of the 2021 UEFA U21 European Championship has already been made, with Greece placed in Group 4 alongside Croatia, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Lithuania and San Marino.
Placed in pot 3, the Greeks were always going to be drawn against two theoretically stronger opponents, and they were pitted with two familiar foes. Croatia and the Czech Republic, teams which were in the same group as Greece in qualifying for the 2019 UEFA U21 European Championship, were the sides to appear from the first two pots. Scotland, Lithuania and San Marino complete the Group 4 line-up.
Greece endured a mixed bag against the Croats and the Czechs in 2019 U21 European Championship qualifying. The Ethniki Elpidon managed to defeat the Czech Republic 3:0 at home and 2:1 on the road, but when playing eventual group winners Croatia, it was a different story. In Thessaloniki, Greece were held to a frustrating 1:1 draw, before Croatia claimed a vital 2:0 win in Pula to move into first place of Group 1 based on their superior head-to-head record. The Greeks then contrived to lose 0:2 on aggregate to Austria in the qualification playoffs and will not participate at the final tournament in 2019.
The Scots and Lithuania won’t be easy to beat either, especially away from home. However, minnows San Marino are expected to retain their tag of the whipping boys, and six points against the tiny nation are practically a given. In qualifying for the 2019 U21 European Championship, Greece met San Marino, easily claiming 5:0 (A) and 4:0 (H) victories.
Key Greece U21 players such as Konstantinos Kotsaris, Konstantinos Tsimikas and Efthymis Koulouris will not be available to participate due to their age, something which means head coach Antonis Nikopolidis will have to find new talent in order to compete successfully in Group 4.
The qualifiers will be held between March 2019 and October 2020, with the qualification playoffs then taking place in November 2020. In June 2021, the U21 European Championship will be hosted by Hungary and Slovenia, with the two host nations earning a bye to the competition.
Winners of the nine groups will automatically qualify for the 2021 UEFA U21 European Championship. The best group runners-up enter the qualification playoffs.
U21 boss Antonis Nikopolidis shared his thoughts on the draw result: “We already have an idea of the players which will become the new leaders of the team. In the qualifiers for the 2019 European Championship, we were just two matches away from the final tournament, and our aim is always to win every game. Yes, the team will be made up of completely different players, but we will rely on the same qualities. Our philosophy remains the same. Our goal is to qualify, but it’s also important to install the right mentality for the players.”