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Beaglehole: Victory against Denmark is vital

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Steve Beaglehole

Steve Beaglehole

Steve Beaglehole

Steve Beaglehole admits victory against Denmark tonight is vital as Northern Ireland bid to restore a little lost pride in the Milk Cup's Elite Section.

The enthusiastic coach is eager to make the final for a third consecutive year and atone for defeat by the United States at Ballymena Showgrounds a year ago.

That was Beaglehole's first reverse in nine Milk Cup games since he took charge of the Under 20s under Nigel Worthington's reign as head coach.

"We were very disappointed at the outcome against the USA," says Beaglehole, who will be without Josh Carson after Ipswich recalled the attacking midfielder.

"We came up against a very strong side and I think the players learned a lot from the experience.

"But that is in the past and now we have a lot of new faces coming in to try and win back the trophy."

Beaglehole's squad includes Watford defender Adam Thompson who has already made two senior international appearances at the Carling Nations Cup in Dublin.

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He made his debut against Scotland in February and was sent off in his second appearance, against the Republic, a game Northern Ireland lost 5-0.

Northern Ireland open with that game against Denmark at Coleraine Showgrounds tonight while the holders are up against Israel in Ballymena Showgrounds. Mexico and Georgia clash at Ballymoney.

USA striker Omar Salgado returns to captain the defending champions.

The young American is the only survivor from last year when the States impressed as they swept all before them en route to the final.

He didn't take long to make his mark after jetting into Northern Ireland, scoring the USA's goal to secure a 1-1 draw in a warm-up friendly against Coleraine at the Showgrounds on Saturday, cancelling out close season signing Stephen Parkhouse's first half strike for Oran Kearney's side.

"As someone who has experienced the Milk Cup challenge before I think the role of a leader comes more naturally," says Salgado who plays for Vancouver Whitecaps and was involved in their recent friendly against Manchester City in Canada.

Former Newcastle United defender Robbie Elliott is part of the USA's coaching team. Elliott, a strength coach, held a similar role at St James' Park up until two years ago but is now based in the States.

Last year the USA won the tournament with a 1-0 success against China and a 3-2 victory over Denmark in the group stages before a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland in the final.

That tournament represented Salgado's first appearance for the US at any level, having previously opted to play for Mexico at U18 and U20 levels, and he made an immediate impact by scoring the only goal in the Americans' opening match against China.

"For me it was a great experience and a great tournament. Hopefully we can win it again," he says.

With injuries to several Whitecaps attacking players in recent weeks, Salgado has been playing more regularly, starting three of his club's last four matches.

"Any time a young guy is given an opportunity to play, it's going to help them grow as an individual and as a player," Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn says.

"He should relish those opportunities and grow from them."

The United States begin their title defence against Israel tonight, before meeting old rivals Mexico on Wednesday.

"Those experiences are amazing for young kids," Soehn adds.

"While he's in our environment we expect him to showcase himself and be above the rest, having been in a professional training environment every day."


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