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Georgia top Spain and England

Published: Saturday 31 March 2012, 13.45CET
Georgia clinched the last available place in the Under-17 finals after finishing above former champions Spain and England to win elite round Group 3 on home soil.
by Vakhtang Bzikadze
from Tbilisi
Georgia top Spain and England
Georgia celebrate qualifying ©Badri Ketiladze
Published: Saturday 31 March 2012, 13.45CET

Georgia top Spain and England

Georgia clinched the last available place in the Under-17 finals after finishing above former champions Spain and England to win elite round Group 3 on home soil.

Elite round Group 3 hosts Georgia finished above the only two teams to qualify for eight of the first ten UEFA European Under-17 Championships, Spain and England, to make it to the 11th final tournament.

All four teams in the Tbilisi-based group went into Saturday's deciders in a position to qualify but Georgia, on top at kick-off, beat Ukraine 1-0 before an elite-round record 12,000 crowd at the Mikheil Meskhi stadium to ensure Spain's 4-0 defeat of fellow former champions England across the city was in vain. Georgia join the Netherlands, Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Iceland and hosts Slovenia in the draw in Ljubljana at 16.00CET on Wednesday and will compete in their first finals since 2002 from 4 to 16 May.

Georgia were in contention from the start when Chiaber Chechelashvili converted a second-minute penalty against Spain following an Iván Sáez foul. The Spain captain made amends on 59 minutes with an equaliser but his side could not force a winner. By contrast, England did pick up maximum points, Calum Chambers turning in a Will Hughes cross on 56 minutes against Ukraine, who had lost Taras Kacharaba to two first-half bookings.

Two days later England, despite having most of the possession, fell 1-0 to Georgia, Giorgi Papunashvili scoring three minutes into added time. Spain now faced an unusual early exit if they lost to Ukraine, and fell behind on eight minutes to Maksym Tyshchenko's effort. Sergi Samper had a penalty saved by Bogdan Sarnavskiy but soon after Iván Calero levelled and before the break Rubén Blanco blocked an Ihor Kharatin spot-kick. With nine minutes to go Dmytro Bilonog restored Ukraine's advantage but Álvaro Bustos scored instantly for a 2-2 draw.

That kept Spain in contention and, having been beaten by England in the 2010 final and their 2011 elite round decider, finished with a 4-0 win against John Peacock's side, with Calero, Alejandro Grimaldo, Samper and substitute José Gaya scoring in the second half.

But Georgia, missing suspended captain Chiaber Chechelashvili and defenders Giorgi Gorozia and Lasha Dvali, had taken a sixth-minute lead against Ukraine when Aleko Mzevashvili turned in Givi Tsilosani's cross from the left. With some determined spirit and mature defending, that proved enough for victory. It is the first time since the very first editions of the old U16 Championship in 1982 and 1984 that Spain have failed to qualify for two tournaments in a row.

Last updated: 31/03/12 17.27CET

http://www.uefa.com/under17/news/newsid=1776218.html#georgia+spain+england

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