Scotland’s Under-17s will head home from Greece with their heads held high.
Brian McLaughlin’s side rounded off their Elite Round with a deserved 1-0 win over Germany, thanks to Dapo Mebude’s sole goal.
Opening defeats to hosts Greece and Norway thwarted hopes of a finals appearance this summer in England, but centre-back Kane O’Connor is adamant those involved are better, not bitter, for the experiences picked up over the last week.
Kane, the win over Germany must have been bittersweet?
Yes, it was. We were delighted to end the Elite Round on a high but it’s frustrating at the same time. We came here convinced we could win the group and qualify for the Euros. It wasn’t to be but I’m glad we at least went out in style against Germany.
What was going through your heads approaching the game?
We knew it was going to be our last game together as a group so we wanted to do ourselves justice. I thought against Germany that we were the better team for the whole game. Basically, we fought for each other. We know how good a team we are because of previous results. We’d basically not lost a game for two years. So if we were going to go out, we wanted to go out the right way.
What was your take on the game?
Since Day One, Brian’s told us to stick with our style and he’s right. We played out from the back, dominated the midfielder and made our chance count. Brian was delighted afterwards, especially as Germany are such a good team. They bombarded us with diagonal balls in the first half. Our wingers kept having to track back but we still played our own game when we had the ball. In the second half we put them on the back-foot. Even when Chris Hamilton was sent off, we defended really well as a unit.
Brian McLaughlin has consistently praised you as a group. What was his message afterwards?
Brian said he was proud of us all and how far we’d come over the last couple of years. We stuck by what he taught us. Hopefully as many of us as possible can move up to the Under-19s because our togetherness, first and foremost, is what makes us such a good team.
You’ve been in and around the development team at Hibs. What are your short-term goals now the Elite Round is done and dusted?
My immediate ambition is to play as many games as I can for the development team. I’ve really enjoyed it since turning full-time. I just need to try and take my chances, whenever they come. Ryan Porteous is a good role model in that regard. He’s another young centre-back who has captained Scotland’s Under-19s and done well whenever he’s had an opportunity with Hibs. That’s what I have to push for. Ryan’s also great with me in training. He helps me out with tips here and there. Darren McGregor does the same, whether it’s when I’ve joined in with first-team training or away from the pitch around the training ground. I’m lucky to have good senior professionals around me like that.
Finally, what will you take away from the last week?
Disappointment that we’re not progressing to the finals but belief that we should stick with the way we’ve been taught to play. You don’t beat teams like Germany if you’re not doing something right. I’ve also enjoyed working with Brian McLaughlin again. He’s a really good coach who knows his stuff tactically and always has a plan to make life difficult for the opposition. I’ve learned a lot over the last week – and two years with Scotland – that will stand me in good stead moving forward.
European Under-17 Championship Elite Round
The finals will be held in England this summer, with those who finish top of their Elite Round group – in addition to the seven runners-up with the best records against the teams finishing first and third in their section – qualifying.
Scotland 0, Greece 1, Wednesday 21 March, kick-off 4pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland 1 Norway 2, Saturday 24 March, kick-off 12pm (local time), Pampeloponnisiako, Patras
Scotland 1, Germany 0, Tuesday 27 March, kick-off 3pm (local time), Papacharalambeio Ethniko Stadio Nafpaktou, Nafpaktos
Ryan Mullen (Celtic)
Archie Mair (Aberdeen)
Taylor Wilson (Hamilton) PS
Nathan Patterson (Rangers) PS
Chris Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Kane O’Connor (Hibernian)
Jack Armer (Preston North End)
Lewis Gordon (Watford)
Harrison Ashby (West Ham)
Ethan Erhahon (St Mirren) PS
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea) PS
Terry Taylor (Wolverhampton Wanderers) PS
Ethan Ross (Aberdeen) PS
Harry Cochrane (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Marc Leonard (Heart of Midlothian) PS
Jamie Semple (Motherwell) PS
Adedapo Mebude (Rangers) PS
Aaron Pressley (Aston Villa)
Aidan Fitzpatrick (Partick Thistle)
Anthony McDonald (Hearts) PS
PS - denotes Performance School player