Thursday, April 2, 2009


Two years ago at the European Junior Championships held in the German town of Saarbrucken, the English squad was on top of the world after claiming the team event title. But this year at the Palabadminton in Milan all of the 29 participating countries have a chance to dethrone England. From big favorites as Denmark and the Netherlands up to complete outsiders like Iceland or Hungary.

By Elm Vandervorst, Badzine correspondent. Photos : Badmintonphoto (archives)

Divided into seven groups, all involved nations will try to qualify for the next round. Each group contains one seeded country and three other contestants, except for group 1 with five competitors. Based on their previous results, among others their victory at the last U17 Championship, Denmark is the top seed and one of the favorites. The Northern European powerhouse has a very balanced squad, but claiming another title will be easier said than done. The Danish boys and girls will have to deal with “neighbors” Finland and Norway. Greece and Bulgaria are the two remaining participants of this pentad.

In group 2, the Dutch squad is clear favorite. After their silver medal at the previous edition, they’ll only settle for a golden one this year. The Netherlands can count on their “experienced” female twosome Selena Piek and Iris Tabeling, who made it all to the final of the latest German Junior. But also the rest of the team will be hard to beat. Their first opponent Portugal has with Pedro Martins one of the most gifted youngster around, but they’ll probably battle for the second spot together with Lithuania and Hungary.

Reigning champion England will have a difficult task to extend their title, but surviving the group phase is an absolute must. They have some very talented youngsters, demonstrated by the several quarter finals at both the Dutch and German Junior some months ago. Romania, Spain and Austria are England’s adversaries in group 3.

In the 4th Group, Russia is considered a main contender for the championship. An extremely strong female delegation certainly will get them past the first round. Natalie Perminova en Romina Gabdullina already won gold and silver at the Dutch Junior in February and also their female double teams proof to be tough to overcome. But will the Russian boys be able to compete at the same level? Host Italy, Wales and Switzerland will combat for the remaining spots.

Group 5 is on paper the most difficult to predict. Ukraine is classified as the fifth seed but the Scottish squad includes a very gifted generation, with for example their mixed pair Van Rietvelde-Sloan. Even Sweden and Turkey aren’t prospectless to prevail.

France is without a doubt the top favorite in group 6. One of the upcoming stars of French badminton is Alexandre Francoise who was successful at both the Belgian as Polish Junior in the beginning of 2009. Nevertheless the French have to get rid of Slovenia, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Three countries who should be able to steal some gained points from the French force.

In the last cluster, seventh seed Germany booked some great results in their home country at the German Open. Especially their women’s duo Nelte – Burkert impressed. Poland will be their biggest competitor for a spot in the next round. For both Estonia and Iceland, the group phase will likely be their last stop