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.
Despite being handed a daunting assignment at this year's UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Malta, having been drawn in Group B alongside fellow contenders Scotland, Switzerland and Germany, Emílio Peixe's accomplished Portugal side have assured a semi-final spot after just two games.
Enjoying some well-deserved free time the day after a 1-0 win against Switzerland, Selecção das Quinas goalkeeper Pedro Silva and forward Alexandre Silva – both on the books at Sporting Clube de Portugal – spoke to UEFA.com at the team hotel.
UEFA.com: What have been your early impressions of this competition?
Alexandre Silva: It's been a great tournament so far with some excellent teams. It's been very difficult, but this squad has been together since U15 level. We're growing as a team all the time and, like all the other sides here, we're aiming to reach the final.
Malta is a lovely country, the organisation has been excellent, we've had a very warm welcome and I hope we can stay here as long as possible.
UEFA.com: What are Portugal's main strengths?
We're a very united team, there's a great atmosphere in the squad, we've got excellent individual players and everyone has plenty of character. The lads are all great as people and as players too. We always give everything we've got and we're always willing to do anything for any of the others. That's our motto: 'All for one and one for all!'
UEFA.com: Alexandre, has the fact your father is an ex-pro been a help or a hindrance in your career?
Alexandre Silva: My dad [former Angolan international Quinzinho – once a team-mate of coach Peixe at FC Porto] was a forward too, which has been a big help because, having played in the same position, he's always been able to give me good advice. I was never able to see him play live, but I've got video footage of some of his games and sometimes when we've had time off he's taken me training and given me a few tips.
UEFA.com: Pedro, you conceded just once in five qualifying games and have yet to be beaten here in Malta. How will you react if and when your goal is finally breached?
Pedro Silva: As a keeper, you have to expect to concede goals at some point – it's only normal that as well as getting the chance to make big saves you'll inevitably concede sometimes too. The fact we've only conceded once is not just down to the goalkeeper; it's also because we have a great defence and the midfielders and forwards all work really hard too. We defend as a very compact unit and it's very difficult for teams to threaten our box.
UEFA.com: How far can Portugal go in this competition?
Pedro Silva: At the start of qualifying, we kept our sights low. We knew we had a great team and a strong squad, but our primary objective was just to make sure we qualified. Now that we've made it here and we know more about the strengths and qualities that we have, as well as more about the other teams, I think we're good enough to go all the way to the final.
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