The UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round draw has thrown together old rivals England and Spain, while last season's winners the Netherlands face the side that staged that tournament, Serbia.
Only the seven group winners will join hosts Slovenia in the finals from 4 to 16 May after the one-venue mini-tournaments, to be played in late March. England, who beat Spain in the 2010 final, repeated the trick last season in the elite round before reaching the semis, and must outdo their old sparring partners again to qualify, with hosts Georgia and Ukraine also in Group 3.
Alongside the Netherlands – who lost to England in the qualifying round – and Serbia in Group 5 are the Republic of Ireland and Albania, while three former winners in 2011 runners-up Germany, Portugal and Turkey have been drawn in Group 4 with Bulgaria. Lithuania, who have made the elite round for the first time, must get past last season's semi-finalists Denmark, Scotland and Iceland to progress a stage further.
UEFA Youth and Amateur Committee chairman Jim Boyce, who made the draw alongside the captain of last season's Netherlands squad, Daan Disveld – who received the Fair Play prize on his team's behalf – told UEFA.com: "What I have been delighted about in my time being involved with UEFA at youth level is to see countries now being able to host finals, and being able to host them very well, and next year, we're breaking new ground again, we're going to Slovenia for the U17 tournament and Estonia for the U19 tournament. I know that both countries are very excited about having the opportunity of hosting finals – hopefully it will leave a legacy.
"I look back on the years that I have been involved, and I have seen so many of the players who are now established international players who have come through youth football. I've said it many times, I think UEFA deserves the highest credit for organising these competitions."
Elite round draw
Group 1 (24-29 March): France*, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland
Group 2 (24-29 March): Czech Republic, Belarus, Poland, Luxembourg*
Group 3 (26-31 March): Spain, England, Georgia*, Ukraine
Group 4 (20-25 March): Germany*, Portugal, Turkey, Bulgaria
Group 5 (22-27 March): Serbia, Netherlands* (holders), Republic of Ireland, Albania
Group 6 (24-29 March): Denmark, Scotland*, Iceland, Lithuania
Group 7 (23-28 March): Hungary*, Russia, Belgium, Wales
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