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Netherlands first through to Malta finals

The Netherlands gained the victory they needed against France to top elite round Group 3 and become the first country to book their place at the eight-team finals in Malta.

Netherlands forward Anthony Berenstein shows his delight after scoring
Netherlands forward Anthony Berenstein shows his delight after scoring ©Edwin Verhoeven

The Netherlands became the first team to qualify for May's UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Malta by defeating France 3-1 in an elite round Group 3 winner-takes-all decider.

Level on points after victories in their first two matches, the sides went into the break all square after a goalless opening 40 minutes in Uden. A double from 16-year-old Steven Bergwijn, however, inspired the Jong Oranje, who started the day in second place on goal difference, to the success they needed to top the section.  

On matchday one, France took the lead against Sweden through Allan Saint-Maximin's early goal. Corentin Jacob doubled their advantage 13 minutes in and Clément Michelin struck after half-time to seal a 3-0 triumph. However, as would be the case throughout the mini-tournament, the two-time champions kept pace, though they needed an 83rd-minute effort from Anthony Berenstein – his second of the game – to defeat Austria 2-1.

Rupert Marko's team again fell foul of an added-time goal in their second outing, another 2-1 reverse, France's Ousmane Dembele coming off the bench to score the last-gasp winner having cancelled out Stefan Posch's penalty with five minutes remaining. The Netherlands had less trouble in prevailing 2-1 against Sweden courtesy of goals from Marlon Slabbekoorn and Bergwijn.

Bergwijn increased the Netherlands' lead against France after Kenneth Paal, just on, made an immediate impact by teeing up Donny van de Beek. Another replacement, Marcus Thuram, gave France hope just before the hour, optimism that was swiftly snuffed out when Bergwijn registered again two minutes later. Austria beat Sweden 1-0 in the other game.