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 four third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 30 qualifiers plus the top two seeds – 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.
Champion and joint top scorer in this competition last year, Tonny Trindade de Vilhena has since made a clutch of appearances for Feyenoord in the Eredivisie, and is a shining example that the UEFA European Under-17 Championship is often a launchpad to success. Eligible to return for this year's edition, the No10 took time out to speak to UEFA.com ahead of his second U17 semi-final.
UEFA.com: Looking back on the group stage, how do you think it went?
Tonny Trindade de Vilhena: Every game can be better – you can always do things better as a player. You always make mistakes in a game, and we will try to learn from ours. Our movement from defence to attack could improve, but that was already better against Poland. Overall the group was very good, but we came through and now we are ready for the semi-final.
UEFA.com: How has your experience of last year helped this time?
Trindade de Vilhena: I think that last year we had a more mature group of players. This time, we have quite a few guys who are very young. I have experience and the players see me as a role model and they ask me advice. I also try to talk to the group and motivate them – I did it particularly before the Poland game. Of course it is not one-way, I learn from them – you learn from everybody you play with.
UEFA.com: In January you made your Eredivisie debut with Feyenoord. Did lifting the trophy in Serbia help you achieve that goal?
Trindade de Vilhena: It was not guaranteed after winning the cup. When I went back to the Netherlands I had to work hard, and the players have to prove themselves every day at Feyenoord. It is fantastic to play for such a big club. As a young player and a big fan, you always dream of making your debut. I played against VVV-Venlo [a 2-1 defeat], and it was very special for me; a great experience after working so hard to earn it.
UEFA.com: You have played more matches since, what is it like being around those players?
Trindade de Vilhena: Fantastic. The players at Feyenoord are like my big brothers. They do everything to help me and hopefully with them I can find my way to the top. Actually, I was needed recently in an important match for my club, which is why I was late here. Fortunately, though, it meant that it didn't matter that I was suspended for the first match in Slovenia. I came on against AZ [Alkmaar] and we won to go second in the Eredivisie. Then I came and joined my team-mates here for the next two matches.
UEFA.com: Georgia have surprised a lot of big teams. Are you worried that you could be next?
Trindade de Vilhena: Compliments to Georgia for reaching the semi-final, it is a small country and it is a big achievement for them. They have earned their place of course, after surviving two groups with so many big teams and we look forward to facing them, but we are ready and we are not worried. We take everything step by step. Of course we want to win again, but we are not thinking about a place in the final.
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