The 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship comprises a qualifying group stage and play-off round to determine which seven teams join hosts Israel in the final tournament.
Qualifying group stage
Teams are split into ten groups – two of six teams and eight of five – and play each other on a home and away basis. The ten group winners and four runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their sections advance to the play-offs.
Play-off matches are played according to the knockout system, with each team playing each opponent home and away. The team which scores the greater aggregate of goals qualifies for the next round, with away goals, extra time and then penalties used to determine the winner in the event of a draw.
The final tournament comprises the seven play-off winners and Israel, who qualify automatically as hosts. The eight teams are split into two groups of four. Each team plays each other once in their group with the winners and runners-up advancing to the semi-finals where the winner of Group A plays the Group B runner-up and vice-versa. The winners advance to the final.
Further details, including the criteria for separating teams that finish level on points in a group, can be found in the official competition regulations.
Billy Kee scored a hat-trick as Northern Ireland overwhelmed the Faroe Islands in 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 4.
The Northern Ireland captain opened the scoring on 25 minutes with a magnificent dipping effort into the top right-hand corner, and the game was as good as over when he added another from long range moments later. Kee turned provider for Josh Magennis − who turns 21 in five days' time − after 32 minutes, yet it was not until a quarter of an hour from time that he completed his treble with a lofted finish over Teitur Gestson.
Conor Devlin saved a late penalty when these sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture in May, but was seldom called upon as Steve Beaglehole's men dominated, Kee in particular spurning three chances in the early stages. He made up for that in style, however, with two goals from outside the area and then teed up strike partner Magennis, who received an early birthday present when he turned sharply and fired in a low shot.
Kee twice came close to adding a third for himself in the second half − the latter occasion when he shot wide of the empty net following confusion in the Faroese defence between Gestson and Erling Jacobsen − but righted those wrongs when he reached Oliver Norwood's pass over the top.
The only downside to an otherwise comfortable afternoon for the hosts was the straight red shown to James Knowles 11 minutes from time for a challenge on substitute Gunnar Zachariasen. Northern Ireland lead the group by three points from the Faroe Islands, with none of the other three teams yet to begin their campaign.
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|Steve Beaglehole (ENG)||William McLoud Jacobsen (FRO)|
|Tero Nieminen (FIN)|
|Mikko Alakare (FIN), Miikka Poikselkä (FIN)|
|Vesa Hätilä (FIN)|