Eleven days of elite round action will decide the seven teams to join hosts Slovakia in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in May.
Albert Stuivenberg's Netherlands side, aiming for an unprecedented third straight victory having beaten Germany in the last two finals in Serbia and Slovenia, start their title defence on Thursday. They welcome Northern Ireland, Italy and Norway to Uden and Echt in Group 7. Also starting Thursday is Group 1 in Croatia, featuring former winners Spain and France.
Other mini-tournaments will be played in Switzerland, England and Austria before the last two groups run from 26 to 31 March in Hungary and Germany. Only the seven group winners will progress to join hosts Slovakia in the finals from 5 to 17 May, with the draw at 14.30CET on 4 April at the Congress Hotel Senec. The top six teams in the tournament will advance to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates from 17 October to 8 November.
Group 1 (21-26 March): Croatia*, Belgium, Spain, France
Group 2 (25-30 March): Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Austria*
Group 3 (26-31 March): Hungary*, Sweden, Finland, Belarus
Group 4 (26-31 March): Germany*, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Estonia
Group 5 (22-27 March): Czech Republic, Switzerland*, Israel, Poland
Group 6 (23-28 March): England*, Slovenia, Portugal, Russia
Group 7 (21-26 March): Norway, Netherlands (holders)*, Italy, Northern Ireland
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