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Tense finish as Belgium and Ukraine progress

Belgium and Ukraine have reached the elite round at the expense of Azerbaijan and Croatia after a nervy finish to UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round Group 7.

Belgium and Ukraine remain in contention
Belgium and Ukraine remain in contention ©UEFA.com

Belgium and Ukraine sealed the top two spots in UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round Group 7 after a final day of action which all four teams had started on three points.

First place went to Belgium following their Deni Milosevic-inspired 4-3 victory against hosts Croatia, while Ukraine took the other elite round berth on offer after a 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan. Level with Ukraine on points, Azerbaijan missed out on goal difference.

For Belgium, winning the section represented a superb recovery, Patrick Klinkenberg's charges having lost their opening game 2-0 to Ukraine as Dmytro Bilonog and Artem Radchenko found the net in the first half. On the same day, Azerbaijan overcame Croatia 2-1, Ruslan Nasirli and Orkhan Aliyev striking either side of the break before substitute Marko Pjaca pulled one back with 11 minutes left.

Everything changed two days later as Belgium got off the mark with a 1-0 win against Azerbaijan, Deni Milosevic scoring in the opening minute of the second half. Azerbaijan's Namik Alaskarov missed a penalty 13 minutes from time and, after the final whistle, Adil Nagiev was dismissed for kicking the ball at an opponent. In Porec, meanwhile, Croatia defeated Ukraine by the same score, Mario Pašalić having a penalty saved by Bogdan Sarnavskiy with eight minutes left but then scoring.

In a tense final round of matches, Milosevic was on target again for Belgium, scoring twice and getting sent off in an epic encounter against Croatia. Milosevic put Klinkenberg's side 2-0 up and Tuur Dierckx extended their lead, before Tonći Mujan and Filip Faletar almost sparked a remarkable comeback in the closing stages. Dierckx, taking over Milosevic's leadership role in the last 28 minutes, secured a late second to put the result beyond doubt before Marko Kolar reduced the arrears in added time.

That victory ensured Belgium topped the group as Ukraine and Azerbaijan could only manage a 0-0 draw in the other game, with the former qualifying courtesy of their superior goal difference. Azerbaijan cannot go through as one of the two third-placed teams with the best record against the leading pair in their section and their results mean that Wales will definitely progress.