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 four third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
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.
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.
David De Gea was Spain’s hero in the epic penalty shoot-out that followed a similarly tense 1-1 UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-final draw with hosts Belgium - and the rest was all a blur.
De Gea denied Belgium captain Dimitri Daeseleire with Spain 7-6 up on spot-kicks but then, as he told uefa.com: "After stopping the penalty, I just wanted to run to the players and embrace them all, and I did. But I lost one of my contact lenses during that beautiful moment of celebration. I have been wearing lenses for two years now, and perhaps they have helped me save penalties better!"
The highly-rated Club Atlético de Madrid custodian kept two clean sheets in the group stage here, but this was an even greater feeling. "When as a goalkeeper I can decide a match that way, that makes me very happy," he said. "And this situation I have been in before. At my club I also am a good penalty saver. And although this was a semi-final, the situation is the same. The player steps up, and you have to try to prevent him from scoring. My colleagues gave me directions every time which way I would have to dive. With the last penalty the ball hit me in the face, but at such a moment you do not feel any pain, only joy."
Even before the shoot-out, De Gea and co had been through a lot. Defender Pichu was sent off early in the second half for a second yellow card and David Rochela turned Eden Hazard’s effort into his own net on 63 minutes to leave Spain behind. But eight minutes later 2006 finals joint top-scorer Bojan Krkić finally broke his duck in this year's tournament with a superb equaliser and also converted in the shoot-out as Spain earned a Sunday final with England.
"It was not easy especially when we were down to ten men and Belgium scored a goal," De Gea said. "But luckily we were able to equalise. I still had faith, because Bojan had a very good match, just like the rest of the team. Therefore I am also very happy for Bojan, because he had not scored a goal so far, and this match he showed that our faith in him was justified, keeping us in the race for the final. That made us happy, as Bojan worked hard and this is a special reward for him and the whole team."
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