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.
Hungary and Italy both made their way through to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round and Albania still have hopes of joining them.
The Azzurrini and qualifying round Group 8 hosts Hungary had both triumphed in their opening two games against Albania and Liechtenstein to ensure progress. Those wins came prior to their meeting today, which Hungary edged 3-2 thanks in part to a pair of almost identical second-half goals from Barnabás Rácz, the ball finding its way to him outside the opposition penalty area after which he jinked to the left and found space to rifle low into the far right corner of the net. Meanwhile, Albania overcame Liechtenstein 6-0 in their final fixture and could yet advance as one of the two best third-placed teams across the 13 qualifying round sections.
While ten-man Italy needed a last-minute Gennaro Tutino goal to beat Albania 1-0 in their opener, Hungary consigned Liechtenstein to a 5-0 reverse, Donát Zsótér claiming two of the four second-half goals. István Pisont's charges then defeated Albania courtesy of Olivér Tihanyi's solitary strike, Zsótér having a penalty saved by Antonjo Elezaj early in the second half. They remained top as Italy gained a 4-0 victory against Liechtenstein, the game level at the interval before Federico Bonazzoli struck an eight-minute hat-trick after Elio Capradossi had broken the deadlock. Both sides fielded 14-year-olds, including Italy's Federico Di Marco, who was later to be fouled for a penalty against Hungary.
Albania are currently the second best third-placed side behind Cyprus but may lose that tag tomorrow when Group 4, which features the Cypriots, concludes. However, the Albanians' record – achieved by that Elezaj penalty save – means that Turkey, positioned third in Group 12, will definitely fail to proceed to the second stage for the first time in a decade.
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