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Basel's Streller, Stocker and Frei inspire Ajeti

Published: Tuesday 13 May 2014, 20.00CET
Switzerland Under-17 and FC Basel 1893 striker Albian Ajeti speaks to UEFA.com about learning the ropes from Marco Streller, Alexander Frei and Valentin Stocker.
by Ben Gladwell
from Mellieha
Basel's Streller, Stocker and Frei inspire Ajeti
Switzerland striker Albian Ajeti outside the team hotel in Mellieha ©Domenic Aquilina

Road to the final

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.

Qualifying round
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.

Elite round
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.

Final tournament
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.

 

Published: Tuesday 13 May 2014, 20.00CET

Basel's Streller, Stocker and Frei inspire Ajeti

Switzerland Under-17 and FC Basel 1893 striker Albian Ajeti speaks to UEFA.com about learning the ropes from Marco Streller, Alexander Frei and Valentin Stocker.

Having already earned his first-team stripes for FC Basel 1893, Switzerland Under-17 striker Albian Ajeti spoke to UEFA.com about how he has come of age at the Swiss club.

Ajeti has yet to get off the mark at the UEFA European U17 Championship in Malta, but the forward who steered in five goals in qualifying for the final tournament believes it will only be a matter of time before the ball starts hitting the back of the net again. He has learnt from some of Switzerland's finest after all.

"Marco Streller is my biggest role model at Basel," said Ajeti, who is one of three brothers on the books of the Swiss Super League leaders. "I can really learn a huge amount from him. He gives me tips in every training session and he's always there for me if I have any questions."

Streller, 32, who has scored 18 times in 32 UEFA Europa League appearances and netted five in the UEFA Champions League, has been honing Ajeti's eye for goal. "If maybe I do something wrong in training, he never tells me I've done it wrong, he always tells me ways I could do it better because he knows what I can do," said the youngster, who now trains regularly with Basel's senior squad. "He helps me in every phase of training and in games.

©AFP/Getty Images

Basel's Valentin Stocker

"[Valentin] Stocker's the same. They take the younger players under their wings. I have a great relationship with Stocker and Streller. [Alexander Frei] was also one who would look out for the younger players and tell you: 'You have time, just train hard and the rest will come.'"

©Sportsfile

Albian Ajeti in relaxed mood

That wisdom has served Ajeti well. Still without a goal at the finals, he is not letting that affect him. "I know what I can do and that I can score goals," he said. "I know that we can score goals too, which is important. It doesn't matter who scores [against Scotland on Thursday]; the important thing is that we win and reach the semi-finals and then the goals will come. We believe in ourselves. We still believe it's possible to go through."

After a 1-1 draw with Germany in their opening Group B fixture and a 1-0 defeat by Portugal, Yves Débonnaire's youngsters need to beat Scotland at the Hibernians Stadium on Thursday to stand any chance of qualifying for the last four. That remains the objective for a side who have seen off several heavyweights on their way to Malta.

"We've got a great atmosphere in the camp, ever since the very first qualifying round in Denmark, where we could really feel that we had a lot going for us," Ajeti said. "You don't knock out strong opponents like Spain, Austria, Denmark and Russia by accident, so I think we are a force to be reckoned with."

Last updated: 15/05/14 9.17CET

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