UEFA President Lennart Johansson says the efforts put into preparing and staging the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final round in Northern Ireland have paved the way for an outstanding tournament.
In his message for the championship, Mr Johansson praised both the local authorities and the Irish Football Association (IFA) for the work undertaken in hosting the event – which is seen as an important shop window for the talents of tomorrow.
"These finals are special in many ways for the Irish Football Association, one of the oldest associations in Europe, as it is currently holding its 125th anniversary celebrations," Mr Johansson said. "Furthermore, this final round is the most important UEFA competition ever hosted in Northern Ireland.
"We can be confident that the outstanding support shown by both the local authorities and the commercial partners during the preparation of this tournament will be rewarded by a cheerful, lively and enthusiastic crowd in the stadiums during the two weeks of the competition," the UEFA President added.
IFA's professional work
"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Irish Football Association and its president, Jim Boyce, for their very professional work and commitment in staging what is certain to be a highly successful tournament," Mr Johansson went on.
New combination of teams
The President also stressed that the competition's qualifying format was giving fresh opportunities to smaller countries to progress. "I am delighted to see a new combination of teams, with Armenia qualifying for the final round of an international championship for the first time," he said. Of the eight finalists present in Switzerland a year ago, only Germany have qualified this time.
"This demonstrates once again that the new format, where seven teams come out of the Elite round to enter the final stage of the competition, gives a chance of qualification to even the smallest associations."
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