Armenia upset all expectations by winning an extremely competitive UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group 7 mini-tournament to move into the second round.
Serbia and Montenegro finished as runners-up and also progressed - meaning third-placed Netherlands and fourth-placed hosts Bulgaria were both eliminated.
The Armenians' opening game, a dramatic 2-1 loss against the Serbo-Montenegrins, offered little indication that they would ultimately top the group. Josip Projic put Serbia and Montenegro ahead after 20 minutes but Zhora Hovhannisyan levelled matters nine minutes after the interval. The game looked to be heading for a draw but Gojko Kacar's last-minute strike snatched a 2-1 win for the Serbo-Montenegrins.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands began their campaign with an impressive 2-0 win against Bulgaria courtesy of second-half goals from Sergio Zijler and Henrico Drost. However in the second set of games the group was blown wide open as Armenia produced a sensational display to beat the Dutch 2-0 - with Balep Ndounbuk and Edgar Manucharyan netting the crucial goals.
Bulgaria fight back
In the day's other game Bulgaria delighted their home fans by fighting back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Serbia and Montenegro. Stojan Pilipovic gave his country the lead after four minutes and when Nemanja Djurovic doubled the advantage in the 24th minute the game looked all but over. Bulgaria's response was immediate though. Dimitar Vodenicharov halved the deficit in the 25th minute and Lachezar Baltanov capped a fine comeback with an equaliser nine minutes after the break.
Four maintain hopes
Therefore all four countries advanced to the final set of games still entertaining hopes of finishing in the top two. The Serbo-Montenegrins, with four points, were favourites to win the group, while Armenia and the Netherlands lay just behind on three points and Bulgaria, with one point, needed a last-day win to stay alive.
In the event, the hosts' ambitions were ended by a stunning 4-1 reverse against Armenia - with Manucharyan hitting all four of his side's goals in an astonishing individual performance. The first goal arrived after just nine minutes and further strikes on eleven minutes, 23 minutes and 63 minutes left Bulgaria in disarray - although to their credit Baltanov scored a late consolation.
Armenia finish top
The result was enough to ensure the Armenians topped the group after news came through that the Dutch and Serbo-Montenegrins drew 1-1 in the other final-day encounter. A tense game was goalless going into the final ten minutes, before Pilipovic netted for Serbia and Montenegro in the 72nd minute. However Rachid Ofrany equalised within 60 seconds.
Serbo-Montenegrins settle for second
The Serbo-Montenegrins were therefore forced to settle for second spot, while the Dutch were eliminated as their third-placed record was not sufficient to displace Hungary, who remain in pole position to clinch the second round spot on offer to the best third-placed side from the 12 first-round groups.
N.B. Seeds in bold. The winners of each second-round group will join hosts France at next summer's final tournament.
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