Qualifying for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship kicked off in March with 52 nations bidding for a place at the final tournament in Israel.
The competing teams have been divided into ten groups and the section winners along with the best four runners-up will advance to the play-offs. The seven winners of those play-off ties will then join hosts Israel in the finals.
Turkey welcomed Liechtenstein in the opening qualifying match and could not have wished for a better start, Raşit Çetiner’s side running out 6-1 winners with six different players on the scoresheet. Another team among the goals was Cyprus, who triumphed 6-0 against San Marino, while there was also a victory for Wales in their opening Group 3 game versus Andorra.
The Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland kicked off Group 4 with a goalless draw in May while June saw even more countries enter the fray – not least Montenegro who started with an emphatic 5-0 away defeat of Andorra only to suffer a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Armenia four days later.
Malta made a small piece of history as they began in positive fashion, following up a goalless draw in Finland with their first away victory in U21 qualifying. Their 2-1 triumph over Lithuania in Siauliai means they top Group 2 on four points.
Holders Spain will begin their title defence on 1 September away to a Georgia side who defeated Croatia in their opening Group 5 encounter. Runners-up in Denmark this summer, Switzerland must face the champions again after being placed in the same section, and could have their work cut out in what promises to be a highly competitive group.
Qualifying continues in August with Belarus, Czech Republic and Germany all in action before England, Denmark and Ukraine – this year's three other finalists – join the Spanish in getting their campaigns under way in September.
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