The UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round begins on Thursday with seven sides to earn slots in Malta for last final tournament before the showpiece doubles in size to 16 nations in 2014/15.
First to begin is Group 3, hosted by the Netherlands, who took the trophy in 2011 and 2012 but fell at this stage last season, and are now under Maarten Stekelenburg and Mark van Bommel after long-serving coach Albert Stuivenberg who was promoted to take charge of the U21s. Among their opponents are 2004 champions France and last season's European and FIFA U-17 World Cup semi-finalists Sweden.
The remainder of the groups are played next week, including holders Russia welcoming former champions Spain and Switzerland, and 2013 runners-up Italy facing 2010 champions England. Only the group winners will progress to join hosts Malta in the finals from 9 to 21 May 2014, with the draw at 19.00CET on 9 April at St James Cavalier, Valletta.
Elite round draw
Group 1 (26-31 March): Spain, Switzerland, Russia* (holders), Wales
Group 2 (25-30 March): Poland, Turkey, Greece*, Norway
Group 3 (20-25 March): Netherlands*, France, Austria, Sweden
Group 4 (26-31 March): England, Italy, Czech Republic*, Albania
Group 5 (26-31 March): Germany, Serbia*, Georgia, Republic of Ireland
Group 6 (24-29 March): Romania, Scotland*, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Group 7 (26-31 March): Portugal*, Iceland, Latvia, Ukraine
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