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Spain and Poland step forward into elite round

Spain's attempt to put right last season's absence from the U17 finals is on course after they and Poland strolled through qualifying round Group 11 ahead of Montenegro and Malta.

Samuel Castillejo of Spain takes on Montenegro's Danilo Šarkić
Samuel Castillejo of Spain takes on Montenegro's Danilo Šarkić ©Vijesti

Spain's attempt to put right last season's absence from the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals is on course after they and Poland sailed through from qualifying round Group 11.

Both countries' elite round places had been secured even before they met today, after each had beaten hosts Montenegro as well as Malta. First place eventually went to Spain, under new coach Santi Denia, as Sandro Ramírez struck on 56 and 57 minutes against the Polish team to become the qualifying round's top scorer on seven goals and seal a 2-0 win.

"He achieved this amazing feat thanks to the team," said Denia on Ramírez. "His team-mates helped him a lot. We are happy with nine points in the qualifying round, but there is still a long way to go. The most important thing was our good play in possesion, that made the difference."

Poland coach Marcin Dorna added: "We are very satisfied with our achievement. We had very strong opponents, especially Spain which are one of the favourites to win the European Championship. Also Montenegro, who were a good team and very hard to beat."

Dorna's team had taken the early group lead by defeating Malta 3-0, Mariusz Stępiński netting twice including a penalty. Meanwhile Spain, pipped by England last year to miss out on the U17 finals for only the second time, overcame Montenegro 2-1, Ramírez registering just past the interval after his opening penalty had been cancelled out by Aleksandar Boljević's solo goal.

Two days later the Spanish team thrashed Malta 6-0, aided by a Ramírez hat-trick, but Poland and Montenegro had to wait to play their game due to a waterlogged pitch. When they did see action the following day, goals in the last ten minutes from Adrian Cierpka and substitute Karol Żwir – seconds after his introduction – gave Poland a 2-0 victory and ensured their, and Spain's, progress. Montenegro did get the consolation of third place by beating Malta 3-0.