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.
Poland's dreams of reaching their first final since their defeat to Spain in the 1999 Under-16 showpiece were snuffed out by an impressive German display in the semi-final yesterday. However, ever the leader, captain Gracjan Horoszkiewicz has urged them to forget their 1-0 defeat and has issued a motivating call to arms to his team-mates, reminding them that their futures are bright.
"We shouldn't feel sorrow," insisted Horoszkiewicz after the match. "We are happy about third place. We wanted to achieve more but life sometimes has different plans. This is a sport – today you are loser, tomorrow a winner."
Horoszkiewicz is under no illusions that his side could have performed better against Germany, but still feels that he and his team can hold their heads high after their impressive run in Slovenia.
"From this semi-final I will remember that we could have given more," he conceded. "But this was a very tough game, just as we expected it to be. Unfortunately the winning team was not that one I was hoping. Our dreams didn't come true.
"We have to think back about this match but for sure we don't need to let our heads drop," he added. "We are 17 years old and still all our football dreams and goals can come true. This tournament was not 100% successful but we can be proud of the bronze medal."
Horoszkiewicz believes that the tournament has been a tremendous learning experience for Poland, and remains convinced that he has seen enough from his side in Slovenia to be optimistic about their international future.
"This tournament gave as a lot of experience, because we could match ourselves against the best players in Europe," he said. "It was a big adventure that has shown us the way for the future. I know we are able to go on to a major tournament in, let's say, a few years. For now it is chins up, full speed ahead and let's go Poland!"
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