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.
There was nothing to separate Republic of Ireland and Sweden in UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying Group 10 as both sides advanced to March's elite round with an identical record.
Going into the final day, Ireland and Sweden both had four points, three clear of their group rivals. The Irish had a superior goal difference, registering two more than their chief rivals for top spot but that advantage was wiped out as Sweden overwhelmed the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 4-0 while Ireland ran out 2-0 victors over Romania.
That left them locked together in first place on seven points, with seven goals scored and two conceded. Their meeting on the opening day ended 1-1, with Sweden's Gustav Engvall struck with 12 minutes left to cancel out Dean O'Halloran's opener for Ireland. It was the same score in the day's other match between FYROM and Romania.
Ireland moved top following the second games, beating FYROM 4-1 courtesy of a Jack Byrne hat-trick which included two penalties, Sluejmanov also concerting a spot kick for the hosts to briefly pull it back to 2-1 before Daniel Cleary replied. Sweden overcame Romania 2-1, Gentrit Citaku getting the winner, his second of the game, with 13 minutes left.
Citaku was on target again today as Sweden took FYROM to task, Mirza Halvadzic capping a 4-0 win six minutes from time. That proved enough for a share of top spot as Ireland could only beat Romania 2-0, their frustrations exacerbated by the late dismissal of opening goalscorer O'Halloran. Romania ended third and must wait to see if they will be one of the two teams in that position across the groups with the best record against the leading pair in their section.
Ireland coach Tom Mohan told UEFA.com: "Obviously, I am very satisfied with our performances here. We showed some tremendous character and we fully deserved to go through. All the boys gave their best and I am happy for them. The last minutes against Romania were very tough as we had a player sent off.
"But the most important thing is that we go through and the boys deserve the joy. We can now focus on the next phase. We want to well and out target is going as further as possible and reaching the finals would be a great achievement."
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