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.
England, and manager John Peacock, lifted the UEFA European Under-17 Championship trophy for the second time in five years.
Peacock guided England to glory in Liechtenstein in 2010 and, in his eighth tournament at the helm, tasted success once more in Malta. The Young Lions' final hurdle was the Netherlands, who reached the U17 showpiece for a fourth time in six seasons. Though the Jong Oranje had seen off England in the group stage, they could not do likewise in the decider, going down 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the initial 80 minutes. Dominic Solanke and Jari Schuurman both struck in the final, moving them out on their own to four goals at the top of the tournament scoring charts.
Off target in the shoot-out, Calvin Verdonk had been on the mark from the spot on the opening day of action, as the Netherlands came from behind to beat Turkey 3-2. England also found the net three times, thrilling winger Patrick Roberts with two of the goals in a 3-0 victory against the hosts. Over on the nearby island of Gozo, in Group B, Germany took the lead – with what would prove to be their only goal of the campaign – but were held 1-1 by Switzerland. Portugal defeated Scotland 2-0.
England goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, one of the heroes in the final shoot-out, had already shown his prowess on matchday two, denying Enes Ünal's spot kick as England came from behind to beat Turkey 4-1. The game that followed was another high-octane affair, with the hosts scoring twice but still going down 5-2 against the Dutch. All that meant the Netherlands and England were qualified with a game to spare; Portugal did likewise in the other section, having won 1-0 against the Swiss.
Scotland opened their account, defeating Germany 1-0, and needed only a point against Switzerland to progress. They got all three, with two half-time substitutions sparking a fine comeback and a 3-1 victory. Scot Gemmill's charges would have faced nearby neighbours England in the last four had Peacock's youngsters not succumbed 2-0 to the Netherlands – Verdonk opening the scoring with a stunning strike – meaning they finished as runners-up in Group A.
It mattered not, however, for England survived a first-half barrage to prevail against Portugal in the semi-finals – a measure of revenge for Peacock, who had lost to the same opponents in the last four of his first tournament, in 2003. In the other semi, Maarten Stekelenburg's team made light work of the Scots, racking up a 5-0 triumph to set up another meeting with England.
Though Steven Bergwijn's remarkable assist lit up the final and drew the Dutch level, England were far superior from the spot, with Peacock thankful afterwards that a fortnight practising had paid off in style.
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