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.
The semi-finals are rapidly approaching, meaning the final four teams are just two wins away from becoming champions of Europe. Group A winners Germany are preparing to face neighbours Poland, while Group B winners the Netherlands must contend with Georgia.
Georgia of course are the surprise package of thie year's UEFA European Under-17 Championship, but Netherlands coach Albert Stuivenberg does not entirely see it that way, and is wary of the threat his youngsters face from a united Georgia side.
"In some ways it is a surprise to see Georgia there," said Stuivenberg. "But when you look at their players, you see a real team – players who spend all their time together as they play for just two or three clubs.
"They have surprised some top teams, so they are a threat," he continued. "My players have more experience of semi-finals, but football is so unpredictable. We must focus on our way of playing, especially in attack. I think we have prepared ourselves well."
Georgia coach Vasil Maisuradze was full of pride after reaching the last four, but does not want the journey to stop here and is not resting on his laurels. "I am proud of my players – we have done well," he said . "But we have a very difficult game ahead of us against the Netherlands, who always do well in this tournament. We will have to fight hard again."
Poland coach Marcin Dorna finds himself in a similar situation to his Georgian counterpart, as his team are also underdogs in their semi-final against Germany, who have not dropped a point or conceded a goal. Based on past experience, however, Dorna is staying positive. "Germany is the strongest of all four semi-finalists, and are favourites for the title," he said. "But we weren't gifted this semi-final place, we earned it."
"There are no teams who do everything perfectly," he added. "And we've tried to point that out to our players. This group and me even beat Germany two years ago [in a friendly], so the outcome of the match is open."
Stefan Böger, meanwhile, is confident that his Germany team will triumph if they repeat their impressive display against France on matchday three. "I think for the Poland match, it is not a question of doing anything better than we did against France," he said. "We did a lot of things very well. We had great movement off the ball and I'm feeling positive for Sunday.
"My players are 16 years old," Böger concluded. "So we will have to wait and see how they handle the occasion. But I am very optimistic we will do it."
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