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.
While matchday three is an exciting time for some, confirming places in the semi-finals and announcing four sides as the top quartet in Europe, another four teams pack their bags and head for home. This year, the four eliminated coaches – of Iceland, France, Belgium and hosts Slovenia – had differing views on how they performed. Gunnar Gudmundsson called his players "heroes", while Jean-Claude Giuntini was regretful. One thing they all agreed on, however, was the importance of the tournament in the develoment of talented youngsters.
Miloš Kostič, Slovenia coach
They have seen the top level, and I hope the players take this experience back to their clubs. It is vital for Slovenia because the league is not so strong and our pool of players is very small. I hope that these guys can be messengers to their club-mates, explaining how to be a professional player. The championship has been crucial too to inspire all the youngsters in the stands. Those young guys who are now playing football came here to see what their idols can do on the pitch.
Gunnar Gudmundsson, Iceland coach
I really enjoyed the tournament. It has been an adventure and I have learned a lot. I don't think I have any regrets. We held on to our style – the style which got here – and in every game we improved. We were always the underdogs but we had our chances. The boys are very young still, and I hope that tasting this experience will make them hungry for more. But it is always a difficult path at that age – you are talented, but you're a long way from being a good player. This setback is not the end, they just have to keep on working hard and stay grounded. My boys are heroes. In the end, I hope that I have made them better, they have definitely made me a better coach.
Jean-Claude Giuntini, France coach
Looking back, you wish things had gone differently. I think back to games against Iceland where we led for most of the match and Georgia where we had the ball for long periods and created chances. I regret not doing something to win those matches. But this is football – and particularly youth football. My players have really enjoyed their time here. They now know that Slovenia is a good country and they are aware they have been in a good competition. In their development I think it is moments like this that will be very important.
Patrick Klinkenberg, Belgium coach
We had two objectives. The first was to get these boys to compete; a talented footballing group but that is still physically very young and not strong enough at the moment. The other objective was just to show good quality football by young players. We are happy because they are the future of Belgian football. People come to watch matches because they love good football and I think we have shown good quality football in these three matches.
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