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Switzerland hold off Poland and Czech Republic

Elite round Group 5 hosts Switzerland have qualified for their first Under-17 finals since 2010 after beating the Czech Republic and holding off the challenge of unbeaten Poland.

Switzerland celebrate Anto Grgic's winner against Israel
Switzerland celebrate Anto Grgic's winner against Israel ©EQImages

Elite round Group 5 hosts Switzerland topped the section and qualified for May's UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Slovakia after a tight tussle with Poland and the Czech Republic. 

Going into the final day, Switzerland held a two-point lead over opponents the Czech Republic and Poland, both of whom had drawn twice. Nicolas Hunziker's 47th-minute goal secured a 1-0 win for Heinz Moser's men and a place in next week's finals draw, meaning Poland's 2-1 defeat of Israel was in vain.

Heinz Moser, who also coached Switzerland to their last finals in 2010, said: "The group has come together and has a great team spirit. In the end it's always small things which are decisive but we have players who can make the difference and that is why I also believe we can compete in the finals."

Turn the clock back to last Friday and it was all square after the opening day. The Czech Republic and Israel drew 1-1, Stav Ben Aharon's 44th-minute goal immediately cancelled out by Štefan Danis. Poland held Switzerland 0-0 after Deni Kadoic missed a penalty on 27 minutes and the hosts also went close twice late on.

Switzerland climbed to the summit two days later courtesy of a 2-1 victory against Israel. The ever-dangerous Hunziker found the top left-hand corner from outside the box on six minutes. Shon Zalman Weissman headed Israel level early in the second half after Idan Cohen's cross, but on 62 minutes Israel captain Dan Leon Glazer conceded a penalty converted by Anto Grgic.

The Czechs played out another 1-1 draw with Poland, who took the lead through Paweł Stolarski's spot kick only for Martin Toml to level with 11 minutes left. However, both were to miss out after Switzerland, the 2002 European champions and 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup winners, overcame the Czech Republic to qualify for the first time in three years. That was despite Poland ending unbeaten after edging out Israel thanks to substitute Oskar Zawada's last-minute winner.