UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round Group 4 hosts Germany became the latest former champions to fail to make the finals after ten-man Ukraine left it late to claim a final-day win to top the section.
Having beaten Bulgaria 5-2 and Estonia 6-0, Germany only needed a point against Ukraine in Ahlen today as they looked to continue their bid to reach a third straight final. It was not to be, however, as substitute Andriy Boryachuk struck with three minutes remaining to shock Stefan Böger's men and claim a 1-0 win which sealed Ukraine's place in Thursday's draw.
Hoping to repeat their victorious campaign of 2009, the free-scoring Germans were finally kept at bay in the final game by a resolute Ukraine, whose task became all the harder when Pavlo Makohon was dismissed after 29 minutes. The midfielder saw red for a foul on Timo Werner, who was unable to get the goal which would have taken his qualifying tally to 14 and equalled the record set by Paco Alcácer of Spain in 2009/10.
Rather than Werner, it was strike partner Donis Avdijaj who provided the threat for the Germans in the first half, twice firing off target before having a goalbound effort well blocked. Substitute goalkeeper Dmytro Bezruk then saved three times from Werner after the break as Germany failed to find the breakthrough, with Boryachuk converting from Olexandr Zinchenko's corner late on to steal the points. Although Avdijaj struck the post in added time, Ukraine held on to top the group.
"Now, just minutes after this decisive win, I can't really say how proud I am," commented Ukraine coach Olexandr Holovko after the final whistle. "We tried to take the speed out of this really skilled German team and in the end we won with just ten players. This is incredible. Now we will prepare really well for the final round, and we won't be going there just to make up the numbers. Our ambitions are very high."
For Germany, it was a bitter end to a campaign which began with a record 23-goal tally in the qualifying round and another comfortable win to kick off the elite round. They may have been level at half-time in their opener with Bulgaria, but VfB Stuttgart prospect Werner – who claimed eight of those qualifying round goals – finally broke the deadlock on 45 minutes. Although Chavdar Ivaylov levelled, Avdijaj and Maurice Multhaup swiftly restored Germany's lead before substitute Gian Luca Waldschmidt scored twice late on to make it 5-2.
On the same day, Estonia made a dream start to their elite round debut when Frank Liivak gave them a 28th-minute lead against Ukraine. Defeat nonetheless beckoned, with Andriy Boryachuk's hat-trick after the break the key to a turnaround that left Ukraine top as 5-1 winners.
Ukraine slipped from the summit two days later, though, when their 0-0 stalemate with Bulgaria coincided with Germany's 6-0 defeat of Estonia, Werner hitting four goals. That left both Bulgaria and Estonia out, but Metodi Deyanov's Bulgaria ended in style, as Kiril Despodov and Antonio Vutov both scored twice in a 4-1 final-day win to leave Estonia bottom.
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