"We showed great determination," said Emilio Peixe after his Portugal side advanced with qualifying round Group 5 runners-up Bosnia and Herzegovina to the elite round.
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Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina have progressed to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round after taking the top two places in qualifying round Group 5.
Going into the final matches in Sarajevo on Sunday afternoon, Portugal held a three-point advantage over opponents Croatia and hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina. Emilio Peixe's side made sure to maintain their cushion by seeing off Croatia 1-0 for their third victory in the section, while the Bosnians drew 0-0 with Montenegro to finish runners-up. The leading duo will now contest the elite round in March, while Croatia already know they cannot rank as the third-placed team with the best record against the front pair in their section.
Portugal completed their clean sweep thanks to Renato Sanches's 24th-minute finish against Croatia, the No10 proving to be their star performer throughout. "We showed great determination in every match," said coach Peixe. "It wasn't easy to prove that we were favourites but we succeeded in the end. I would like to congratulate my players on their great commitment. Now is the time to celebrate."
Bosnia and Herzegovina, meanwhile, rubber-stamped their own graduation by blunting Montenegro, who ended up with one point, though it was Bosnian goalkeeper Emir Čutahija's display in the 2-0 success against Croatia that really stood out.
"After the first match [a 2-0 loss to Portugal], we got ourselves back on track and won against Croatia, and after that we took one point against Montenegro which was enough to go through to the elite round," said home coach Sakib Malkocević. "This result is confirmation that we have a quality team that we'll need to pay attention to in the future."
On the opening day, Croatia left it late to defeat Montenegro 1-0, prevailing through substitute Marko Mrkonjić's goal in added time despite having Filip Benković sent off in the 22nd minute. Portugal beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 courtesy of Idrisa Sambu's early double.
The hosts bounced back two days later to overcome Croatia 2-0 with Amer Gojak and Sanjin Lelić on target. That allowed Portugal to open up a three-point lead as Montenegro again fell to a late goal, substitute Pedro Delgado's 77th-minute penalty securing a 2-1 win after Pedro Rodrigues's own spot kick earlier in the second half had been cancelled out by Nikola Vujnović.