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.
Scorer of Gibraltar's first goal in any UEFA football competition, Under-17 forward George Wink is excited by what the future holds.
Having recorded victory against San Marino in UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 qualifying at the start of the year and dfter dipping their toe in the water at U19 level earlier this month, UEFA's newest member association took part in UEFA European U17 Championship qualifying round Group 7 in Armenia this past week. Like the U19s, they were beaten in all three of their qualification fixtures, but Stephen Head's team did manage to score. Indeed, they took the lead twice – against the Republic of Ireland and Armenia.
Wink, the scorer on both occasions, was proud to have found the net but rued his side's failure to make more of an immediate impact in a section topped by England. "Of course we knew it would be difficult as there were some very strong teams in our group," he said.
"However, we wanted to earn a result – we just didn't have enough experience," added Wink. "As a forward, I am very happy that I scored twice, but it would have been better if we had got better results. The most important thing is that we have the opportunity to participate in all UEFA tournaments, and that is really exciting."
Head was equally phlegmatic despite his squad's three defeats, acknowledging that it will take time for Gibraltar to make an impression. "I am glad Gibraltar is now part of the UEFA family," he said. "We need to become more professional. However, I am satisfied with the team's performance. I am sure the experience gained in our first UEFA tournament will prove useful in the future."
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