The UEFA European Under-17 Championship consists of three distinct stages: the qualifying round, the elite round and the final tournament. The format changed for 2014/15 with the expansion of the final tournament from eight to 16 teams.
The qualifying round, played in autumn, is made up of 13 groups of four countries playing in one-venue mini-tournaments. The top two from each pool progress alongside the five third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 31 qualifiers plus the top seed – given a bye this far – compete in eight mini-tournament groups of four. The group winners and seven runners-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their section advance to the finals to join the hosts.
In the final tournament the contenders are split into four groups of four, with the front two from each proceeding to the knockout phase.
Further details, including the criteria for separating sides that finish level on points in a group, or after 80 minutes in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.
Netherlands coach Albert Stuivenberg and his Poland counterpart Marcin Dorna were relieved to have made the UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-finals but disappointed with the nature of the draw which ensured they finished first and second in Group B. For Belgium and Slovenia, third and fourth in the section respectively, there were positives and negatives to draw on.
NETHERLANDS 0-0 POLAND
Albert Stuivenberg, Netherlands coach
We are satisfied that we are first in the group and that we qualified for the semi-finals as that was our goal. It was not a very attractive match at all. The Dutch team always want to play offensive football, but it's not always possible. The boys weren't pleased with the game itself either as they didn't score even though they had a few chances. It's not in our culture to play like this but this is international football! Now we will evaluate the match, forget it as soon as possible and get ready for the next one. We hope for the best!
Marcin Dorna, Poland coach
It was a very tactical game but we had no other option. Football is not a game for individuals, it's a game in which everybody should be involved. As you saw against Slovenia, we played more open and it was also a different story against Belgium. We usually have rituals to chant in the dressing room after the match, especially after a win. Today I told the players to relax, and slowly focus on the match with the Germans.
BELGIUM 3-1 SLOVENIA
Patrick Klinkenberg, Belgium coach
We played the match that we've been waiting for. We scored this time but unfortunately it was too late – we should have started sooner. But at least we have scored in this final game of the group stage. Congratulations to the Netherlands and Poland for qualifying for the semis but we think we should have been there considering the quality of football we've shown. But that's football and we have to accept that.
Miloš Kostič, Slovenia coach
We knew from the start that we had a tough group in which details would be decisive. Almost every goal we conceded was due to our mistakes – a result of inexperience that we cannot get away with at this level. I cannot fault the guys at all as they gave everything. Of course they made some mistakes but these are young guys who play in the Slovenian league which is not at the same level as our opponents' leagues. The goal is now to prepare them for the U19 tournaments in the future and try to get them to a level to ensure they can compete at European Championships again.
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