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.
The Netherlands came within an ace of winning their third UEFA European Under-17 Championship in four years back in May, only to lose the final on penalties to England having recorded ten straight victories on their way to the decider.
Still, there was a consolation as captain Keziah Veendorp was invited to UEFA headquarters in Nyon earlier this month to receive the UEFA Respect Fair Play trophy on behalf of his team. The 17-year-old FC Groningen defender looked back at the tournament with UEFA.com and had his say on whether this season's squad can go one step further than his.
UEFA.com: Is there one particular memory you have from Malta?
Keziah Veendorp: The memory that stands out is the final. We lost against England so it's not a great memory but it's the one that stays with me.
UEFA.com: Why did you do so well, winning all your group games?
Veendorp: We really were a team – not just the starting XI, but the whole staff and the other players on the bench; that togetherness was our strength.
UEFA.com: Then you did even better in the semi-final ...
Veendorp: The Scotland semi-final was a nice game; we won 5-0. It was a great feeling after the game and we went to the final with a great feeling. Really good memories. Segun [Owobowale] scored a really nice goal and we were really happy.
UEFA.com: What are your reflections on the final?
Veendorp: It was a typical final; 1-1 and then extra time and penalties so it was tight. We were tired and England were too, but everyone was giving 100%.
UEFA.com: What are your next ambititons?
Veendorp: I'm playing for Groningen, I want to rise higher, get to the first team but time will tell. I have to take a few steps before that. You always dream to play for the senior national team and a big dream of mine is playing in the Spanish league or England.
UEFA.com: What do you think of this season's U17 team?
Veendorp: This year's team have a few really good players. There are a few playing in England – one for Manchester United [Timothy Fosu-Mensah], two for Manchester City [Javairô Dilrosun and Rodney Kongolo]. I think they are really good players. I've seen them play.
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