Guaranteed a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship with victory on Monday, France and the Czech Republic ultimately fell short and were forced to draw solace from securing FIFA U-17 World Cup berths.
On two points apiece after their opening two group games, both teams begun Matchday 3 in second place in their respective sections. While the Czech Republic were pipped to the runners-up spot by Germany having been held to a third draw 0-0 by section winners the Netherlands, France lost out to England following a 1-0 defeat by Denmark. Out of the Serbia finals, both teams can at least look forward to the World Cup in Mexico, which runs from 18 June to 10 July.
"I'm very happy to be in Mexico," said Czech coach Josef Csaplár. "This was our first target and we achieved it. It means a lot for Czech football to be playing another three difficult games against difficult opponents, different countries. It is a lot of work to train, to develop to educate the players to the next level of skill.
"The difference between us and the Netherlands' players is very big. To achieve the skilfulness of the Netherlands players will take three, four years. It is very difficult to say our World Cup ambitions now. It is not important – what matters is the development of the players. We want to play attractive football and competitive football."
While Csaplár is focused on ensuring the continued development of the technical side of his players' game, his France counterpart is looking to cure what he views as a more fundamental ill. "I will try to find players who have a good head because I think in France the players are too comfortable," said Patrick Gonfalone. "Today our players were too comfortable and this is not good for the game.
"We will try to find players who play together. These players are professional at U11. For them it is always easy – it is not good for the players. They haven't signed for their clubs but they think they are professionals in their head. We have good players but not a good team. When we play like that we can't win – it's not possible."
The draw for the group stage for the finals will take place in Mexico City on 17 May, two days after the European showpiece in Novi Sad. As well as France and the Czech Republic, semi-finalists Denmark, England, Germany and the Netherlands will also be in the 24-team tournament. They will aim to emulate Switzerland's feat of winning the last edition in 2009 in Nigeria, eight years after France lifted the trophy.
FIFA U-17 World Cup qualifiers
AFC: Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Uzbekistan
CAF: Burkino Faso, Congo, Ivory Coast, Rwanda
CONCACAF: Canada, Jamaica, Panama, United States
CONMEBOL: Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay
OFC: New Zealand
UEFA: Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands
1987: Soviet Union
1989: Saudi Arabia
(UEFA representatives in bold)
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