UEFA European Under-19 Championship Elite Round
Croatia (hosts), SCOTLAND, Bulgaria, Belgium
23rd-28th March 2016
Aidan Nesbitt knows what to expect in this week’s UEFA European Under-19 Championships Elite Round qualifiers and believes that Scotland are well equipped to reach this summer’s finals in Germany.
Scotland play their first of three matches in six days tomorrow against Belgium in Croatia and the Celtic playmaker, who is currently on loan at Partick Thistle, reckons the team’s previous qualifying experience under Scot Gemmill holds them in good stead.
Speaking to the Scottish FA website, Nesbitt said: “We know that we’ll be playing some really good players in the Elite Round and we know from previous experience that we’ll need to be at our best to reach the finals.
“Most of this squad have been together and played for Scot for the best part of two years now. We’re use to how we play as a team but, importantly, we know about the challenges we face in these qualifying rounds. The team that deals with the mental preparation and recovery aspects of three games in six days will be most equipped to reach the finals. Hopefully, with the experience we’ve got in that sort of environment, we can make the finals in Germany.”
Scotland’s first match is against Belgium, a team that provides fond memories for Nesbitt. The winger scored against Belgium at under-17 level two years ago at Cappielow, a goal which triggered an impressive 3-1 win and booked Scotland’s place at the finals in Malta.
Nesbitt was named in UEFA Team of Tournament as Scotland reached the semi-finals – their best ever performance at that level - and he dreams of recreating that experience at under-19 level.
“At half-time, our heads were down that we were losing the game. I had a volley disallowed for offside - which I still insist was onside - and Belgium were playing well,” he recalled.
“But that night we pulled ourselves together, and I scored not long into the second half. From there on, we ran over the top of Belgium, and we put in a great performance.
“I played Belgium last season as well with the under-19s. They are a top side, but once you reach the Elite Round you know that regardless of who you face, they’ll be of real quality.”
Nesbitt, who joined Partick Thistle on loan from Celtic in the January transfer window, is one of several players in the under-19 squad who is enjoying first-team football.
Rangers duo Ryan Hardie and Ross McCrorie have impressed on loan at Raith Rovers and Ayr United respectively, while Greg Kiltie has become an integral member of Kilmarnock’s first team.
For Nesbitt, who has started twice for the Firhill side in the Scottish Premiership since his move across the city, first-team football has provided valuable experience ahead of this week’s matches.
He said: “It’s been really good. I’ve started two games with Thistle in the Premiership so far, and I’ll sure I’ll get more opportunities this season if I keep working hard.
“It’s is a different experience from playing in the Development League. So far, in the matches I’ve played against St Johnstone and Motherwell, it’s been a real challenge, but a challenge I’ve really enjoyed. I’m sure it’s the exact same for Ryan and Ross at Raith and Ayr.
“It’s great that we are getting this experience, and it’s the same for the likes of Greg Kiltie who is regularly playing at Kilmarnock, too. It’s valuable experience and I think it will help us this week in the elite round. “
UEFA European Under-19 Championship Elite Round fixtures:
Belgium vs Scotland | 23rd March, 12.30pm | Pomorac Kostrena, Kostrena
Scotland vs Croatia | 25th March, 4pm | Kantrida, Rijeka
Bulgaria vs Scotland | 28th March , 4pm | Pomorac Kostrena, Kostrena
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