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.
"When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail" says the adage. Being around Germany in their hotel in Ljubljana, there is a strong sense that very little is left to chance. Even at this age level, everything is done with the utmost professionalism – from mealtimes, where their own chef provides the players with optimum nutrition; to interviews, where the players speak confidently, rarely need prompting and seem well-prepared for careers facing the media.
Tellingly, the most detailed part of this fortnight in Slovenia is Germany's match preparation sessions, which, according to Nico Brandenburger, leave no stone unturned.
"We get a presentation from one of the coaches, including videos," says the central midfielder. "They give us information about our opponents – their strengths, their weaknesses, how they are likely to play. We are also shown their specific key players and how they behave on the pitch.
"There are two different briefings," Brandenburger adds. "First the team briefing, where the group is sat together. Then there are the individual presentations, where certain players in our team are told to look out for specific dangers."
Such a meticulous approach to detail is no doubt responsible for Germany's improvement in this tournament. Stefan Böger's charges have gone from strength to strength in their three games so far, their perfect group campaign culminating in a 3-0 win against France.
"Now we have won all three matches and haven't conceded a goal, so that is definitely a boost," said Brandenburger, who has been an ever-present in the German engine room thus far.
"I have witnessed a real improvement in the team from the first match to now. We were quite nervous against Georgia and made some mistakes, and since then we have settled and increased in confidence," he said.
The win against Les Bleus extended their famous unbeaten run, but the Germany No6 shrugged off suggestions it was a distraction. "We are aware of it and it gives us a lift, but during the match we put it out of our minds," he insisted.
"We just focus on playing our own game and hopefully winning," added Brandenburger. "If we put in our best performance we can win any match. France are a great team, and we beat them well, so I think we now have the confidence that we can beat anybody."
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