Italy ended the Netherlands' bid for an unprecedented third straight UEFA European Under-17 Championship title after topping elite round Group 7.
Dutch hopes were high on home soil in Uden, having only once failed to qualify since Albert Stuivenberg's 2006 appointment as coach. However, on the opening day the Netherlands were pegged back to 2-2 by Northern Ireland, while Italy beat both Norway and then the home side 1-0 to assure their progress to Slovakia in May.
In their third and final match the Italians drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland, and coach Daniele Zoratto said: "We did well to qualify from a difficult group but I'm sure there is still a big margin for improvement ahead of the finals."
Captain Alberto Cerri, who stood out along with Michael Fabbro and Mario Pugliese, got Italy's campaign off to a winning start against Norway, and the Netherlands also seemed to be on their way when Dabney Souza and Stef Gronsveld put them two up against Northern Ireland. However, substitute Mikhail Kennedy pulled one back after his introduction on the hour and with four minutes left Joshua Tracey secured a draw.
Northern Ireland's luck ran out against Norway, though. After Kennedy had cancelled out Elias Skogvoll's early goal, Zymer Bytyqi clinched a 2-1 Norwegian win four minutes into the second half. Italy now knew victory against the Netherlands would take them into the 4 April finals draw with a game to spare, and two minutes from time the lethal Cerri again proved their goalscoring hero. The Dutch title defence closed with a 1-1 draw with Norway, Oussama Idrissi equalising late on for the hosts.
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