The UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round kicks off on Wednesday and runs until the end of the month with seven places on offer in the finals in Serbia.
After the qualifying round in autumn, 28 sides remained in contention and they now participate in four-team one-venue mini-tournaments. The group winners will progress to join the hosts in the finals draw on Tuesday 5 April at Belgrade City Hall, with the main competition then scheduled from 3 to 15 May.
Just one of the qualifiers will be decided in the next week, with Scotland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia competing with hosts Italy in Group 1. The rest of the mini-tournaments run between 23 and 31 March and the last to kick off, Group 4 in Belgium, will feature a match-up between 2010 winners England and runners-up Spain – between them, those two nations have missed out on qualifying twice only, and once respectively since the U17 reclassification (from U16) in 2001/02, but at least one of them will do so this time.
Another notable meeting is in Group 4, where hosts Germany – champions in 2009 – take on the country that won that year's FIFA U-17 World Cup: Switzerland. The eventual top six at the European finals in Serbia will advance to the next World Cup in Mexico from 18 June to 10 July.
Elite round mini-tournaments
• Group 1 (9-14 March): Italy*, Slovakia, Scotland, Czech Republic
• Group 2 (24-29 March): Portugal, Netherlands*, Croatia, Austria
• Group 3 (23-28 March): Denmark, Greece*, Republic of Ireland, Latvia
• Group 4 (24-29 March): Germany*, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine
• Group 5 (26-31 March): Spain, England (holders), Belgium*, Northern Ireland
• Group 6 (25-30 March): Norway, Georgia, Belarus, France*
• Group 7 (24-29 March): Romania, Hungary*, Iceland, Russia
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