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Ajax's Kluivert Jr relishing career challenge

Published: Tuesday 10 May 2016, 16.25CET
"They [fans and media] anticipate things from me, but I feel no pressure – I just love playing football," Justin Kluivert told UEFA.com as he discussed his father, Ajax and U17 EURO.
by Wayne Harrison
from Baku
Ajax's Kluivert Jr relishing career challenge
Justin Kluivert made an impact off the bench against Italy yesterday ©Sportsfile

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 four 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 30 qualifiers plus the top two seeds – 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 10 May 2016, 16.25CET

Ajax's Kluivert Jr relishing career challenge

"They [fans and media] anticipate things from me, but I feel no pressure – I just love playing football," Justin Kluivert told UEFA.com as he discussed his father, Ajax and U17 EURO.

Twelve months after Luca Zidane kept goal throughout France's march to glory in Bulgaria, another player with an esteemed footballing father is striving to carve out a niche of his own at the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship.

During his pomp in the 1990s and early 2000s, Patrick Kluivert was one of the most revered forwards in world football. Aged 18, he scored the winner for Ajax in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final against Milan and averaged a goal every other game in 181 Liga outings for Barcelona. Until as recently as October 2013, when he was overtaken by Robin van Persie, Kluivert was the most prolific player in the storied history of the Dutch national team.

©Getty Images

For his son, Justin, the journey towards what he hopes will be a glittering career is just beginning. Late last month the winger – who turned 17 five days ago – penned his first professional contract, agreeing a three-year deal with Ajax. "It was a special moment for me and my dad," he told UEFA.com. "[Their tradition of developing young players] is why I signed for them. They have faith in me, I have faith in them and I think I will do some nice things for Ajax."

Sitting in the shade a stone's throw from the Caspian Sea, Justin is clearly at ease whenever Patrick is mentioned. Far from the family moniker being a burden, as it could be to some young players, the confident Netherlands No7 is relishing the challenge of living up to the expectations his surname inevitably conjures.

Patrick Kluivert recalls his Champions League final goal

"I like it when I'm compared to my dad," he said. "He had a great career and I hope to have one, too. They [fans and media] anticipate things from me, but I feel no pressure – I just love playing football." The two will soon be working together. "He's going to be my [Ajax U19] coach next season. I like that. The first few weeks will be strange, but after that I will see him as a trainer."

Comfortable on either flank, Justin did his damage against Italy from the left at Qarabağ Stadium yesterday, delivering a deep cross to the far post that Dylan Vente hooked back for Che Nunnely to head in for the only goal. Kluivert Jr had only been on the field for two minutes. With the clock ticking down, and Kees van Wonderen's side having lost 2-0 to Spain in their Group D opener, it was a case of 'Justin time' for the Oranje. "If you come on you want to do something for the team, something special, and yesterday I think I did that," he explained.

Highlights: Italy 0-1 Netherlands

"We were feeling good before the first match, but you could see Spain are a strong team and we were a little shocked. You saw what we can do against Italy and that we're going to improve. We enjoyed the win, but the focus is now on the next game [against Serbia on Thursday]. If we lose that, the dream is over."

Deeper thoughts of what might become of the Netherlands' campaign can wait for now, though. With all 16 squads on a designated rest day, Justin is keen to savour the tournament experience. "I'm enjoying it a lot because when I was younger I watched these games and now I'm a part of it," he said. "You can test yourself against other teams and players because they are some of the best in the world at this age."

©Sportsfile

©Sportsfile

©Sportsfile

©Sportsfile

©Getty Images

Last updated: 11/05/16 10.00CET

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