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.
Discovered by the same renowned scout who brought Zlatan Ibrahimović and Christian Eriksen to the Amsterdam ArenA, 19-year-old forward Kasper Dolberg is already making a name for himself at Ajax. Meet the Danish starlet who has followed in the footsteps of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard by scoring on his debut for the Godenzonen.
Name: Kasper Dolberg
Debut: 26 July 2016 v PAOK (UEFA Champions League qualifier)
Born: 6 October 1997
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"Kasper has convinced me. I think he's a real striker. Physically he is already very strong for such a young player and he will only get stronger."
Peter Bosz, Ajax head coach
"Kasper is an extraordinary talent. I knew he would be a perfect player for Ajax. Kasper has exceptional qualities: speed, technique, intelligent play and good in the air."
John Steen Olsen, Ajax scout
"I think he has the qualities of Stefan Pettersson as a target man and Patrick Kluivert as goalscorer."
Frank de Boer, former Ajax coach
Born in Silkeborg, Dolberg enjoyed playing handball and football during his childhood. Having begun his career at local outfit Voel, he signed for his home-town club – Danish Super League side Silkeborg – at 12. After progressing through the ranks and representing Denmark at youth level, Dolberg was spotted by acclaimed Ajax scout John Steel Olsen – the man who has unearthed Scandinavian talents such as Jesper Grønkjær, Ibrahimović and Eriksen for the Dutch team for over 20 years. Dolberg inked a three-year deal with the Eredivisie champions in January 2015, agreeing to join that summer, before making his senior debut aged 17 for Silkeborg in the Danish top flight. He promptly impressed in his first year in the Netherlands, scoring three in four UEFA Youth League ties before becoming a permanent first-team fixture at the start of this season. Dolberg is now tipped to make his senior international bow this term, despite only making his Under-21 debut in September.
Playing style ...
Often deployed on the left flank during his youth, the technically gifted starlet is thriving in central areas as a forward. Fast, strong and a natural finisher with a powerful right-foot shot, Dolberg has all the attributes of a top-level striker. Quiet and unfazed, Dolberg has also taken top-flight football in his stride.
Shades of ...
He is often likened to prolific forward and former Dutch international Wim Kieft. Meanwhile, Ajax B coach Gery Vink, who has seen Dolberg climb from his youth team to Peter Bosz's side, compares him to another Scandinavian star: "He has enormous potential. I have often thought, 'This is the new Ibrahimović.'"
Eureka moment ...
While deputising for injured marksman Arkadiusz Milik in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in July, Dolberg showed composure beyond his years with his maiden strike on his Ajax debut. The teenager sent a low drilled effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area against PAOK to rescue a draw and introduce himself to the home faithful in style; it was his first ever outing in Europe. He made headlines again in the Netherlands recently by notching the opener at De Kuip against early pacesetters rivals Feyenoord in his first Klassieker.
Best-case scenario ...
With Dolberg set for a breakthrough campaign after replacing departed talisman Milik, regular domestic and European football, and a senior international call-up are on the way.
He says ...
"Ajax have a great history, I can only improve here. I know what I want [to achieve], but had not expected it so quickly – it's my first season as a professional. I'm pleased with how things are going for me."
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