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.
Malta coach Sergio Soldano was full of pride after seeing his Malta side become the first to represent the island at a UEFA finals, hailing his players' "personality" despite a 3-0 defeat. England counterpart John Peacock was satisfied with the comfortable UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group A victory, but is keen for more as the tournament progresses.
Character, composure and tactial nous, meanwhile, were the attributes Maarten Stekelenburg credited his Netherlands team with after they opened their campaign with a 3-2 triumph against Turkey. Hakan Tecimer rued poor finishing from his team.
Malta 0-3 England
Sergio Soldano, Malta coach
These lads are not used to playing at international level, it is the first time they have played in a competition like this, so we would like to say thanks to all the people who came down here to support us. The main positive I can take is that we showed a lot of personality. You can see the gap between us and the major nations is still very big, particularly at an individual and physical level. I am also very pleased about our tactical performance. We were very well-drilled and if you look at two of the three goals, one was struck from 20 metres and another was a wonder goal from 30 metres out.
We fell a bit short with our final ball. We had two or three opportunities to get into their box but we were always too hurried with our final ball or took the wrong decision and, once you lose the ball against England, they hit you very hard on the counterattack. The players' heads are already back up. They know that they gave everything and they are already thinking about the next game, which will be another tough one, as it is against the Netherlands. But we are in good spirits.
John Peacock, England coach
We would have liked to score more goals, but I'm pleased – we kept trying to do the right things and when you play against teams who defend deep, it's always difficult to break them down. Do we need to be more clinical further into the tournament? Yes, but it's a good start. We are in very good shape physically and we got off to a really fast start. There is pace in the team and they maintained the tempo throughout the game, which is what I was looking for.
We've got a few weapons and it just happened to be Patrick Roberts' day today. He scored two good goals – the last one reminded me of one he scored against Armenia back in October – and it was his day today. However, there are players who can score goals right through this team. We were good at the back, we kept the concentration levels high and a clean sheet is always nice in a tournament. A good start but lots more to do going forward.
Netherlands 3-2 Turkey
Maarten Stekelenburg, Netherlands coach
Both teams were feeling each other out in the first half and there weren't a lot of opportunities. I had a good feeling after we had a positive meeting at half-time, but then they scored a goal almost straight away and that was a little bit of a setback. Despite that, I was always quite confident we would do well in the second half.
I told the players at half-time that our midfielders were too deep and in our defenders' space. One of our qualities is that we have defenders who can use the ball and bring it forward, so we need to make use of that. There is real character in this team and that showed when we went 1-0 down. They stuck to the plan and put extra effort in. I was really proud of the boys.
Hakan Tecimer, Turkey coach
The first game in these kind of tournaments is always hard. We scored the opening goal but then we went on to make mistakes in defence and allowed the Netherlands to counterattack, having also missed a lot of chances in the first half. Once we had gone 3-1 down, we tried to get back into the game and we scored a goal. We also missed a good chance in the final minute.
Of course, we are very sad to lose the game, but I still believe this team will qualify for the semi-finals as group runners-up. If we'd taken our chances here, we'd have definitely won the game. In future, if we score the goals, we will qualify. Today our players were not calm enough and made rash decisions. However, I know the players who missed these chances have scored plenty of goals like this in the past. With our support, I'm sure they will score in the upcoming fixtures.
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