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.
It would have been easy for Aidan Nesbitt's head to drop when he spoke to UEFA.com in the aftermath of Scotland's 5-0 defeat by the Netherlands. That, though, was not his style.
Scot Gemmill's team have enjoyed a wonderful UEFA European Under-17 Championship but the Jong Oranje proved a hurdle too far. The Dutch were superior for much of Sunday's last-four meeting in Ta' Qali, twice hitting the woodwork in addition to the five goals they did score. Nesbitt, however, was quick to front up.
"To go out 5-0 in the semi-finals after getting so far and doing so well, it's tough to take," said the Celtic FC youngster. "The two goals just before half-time were a penalty and a scruffy one. In the second half we went out to try and attack them but they picked us off – they were very clinical. When we went and tried to attack, the game opened up for them. They've got some very good players and I thought a number of their individuals were excellent."
Nesbitt spoke eloquently and defiantly despite the rawness of such an emphatic elimination. Indeed he was even able to draw on the positives and look to the future less than an hour after full time. "In qualification for this tournament we won five of our six games," he said. "We've beaten teams like Germany, Belgium, Switzerland so I think that for all of Scottish football – especially Scottish youth football – it's been excellent to get to the last four of the EUROs.
"I've learnt massively at this tournament, and I'm sure everyone in the team has. I hope that can kick me on to better things. [The manager] told us that we'd done brilliantly to get this far. The Dutch were a good team but we've got to keep our heads up and be happy with what we've achieved."
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