Forty-eight teams will begin their bids for a place in next summer's UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals in Estonia when the qualifying round kicks off this week.
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Forty-eight teams will start their 2011/12 UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round campaigns over the next few weeks with all aiming for a place in next summer's finals in Estonia.
Spain claimed the trophy for the fifth time with victory in Bucharest on 1 August and receive a bye to the elite round next spring, as do their predecessors as champions France – who triumphed on home soil in 2010 – and England. Belgium, who got to the group stage of the 2010/11 finals, begin their quest to reach another tournament on Wednesday as Group 8 – also including Scotland, Wales and hosts Slovenia – kicks off the qualifying round.
The Republic of Ireland were semi-finalists last season and are in Bulgaria for Group 2 from 6 October, with Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina completing the lineup. There is a rapid reunion for the summer's other two semi-finalists as eventual runners-up the Czech Republic and Serbia meet in Group 5, which also features Lithuania and Israel.
The qualifying round concludes on 16 November when the 12th and last section – Group 9, involving hosts Turkey, Poland, Georgia and Luxembourg – comes to an end. The top two in each section, together with the third-placed team with the best record against the leading pair in their group, will join the top three seeds in the elite round in spring 2012, which will then produce seven finalists alongside Estonia.
2011/12 UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round
Group 1: Hungary, Portugal*, San Marino, Faroe Islands (4-9 November)
Group 2: Russia, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria* (6-11 October)
Group 3: Italy, Azerbaijan, Romania, Sweden* (6-11 October)
Group 4: Iceland, Norway, Latvia, Cyprus* (21-26 October)
Group 5: Serbia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Israel* (8-13 November)
Group 6: Ukraine, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* (10-15 November)
Group 7: Belarus, Germany, Montenegro, Northern Ireland* (6-11 October)
Group 8: Belgium, Scotland, Wales, Slovenia* (21-26 September)
Group 9: Poland, Turkey*, Georgia, Luxembourg (11-16 November)
Group 10: Slovakia, Greece, Armenia*, Andorra (21-26 October)
Group 11: Netherlands*, Croatia, Moldova, Finland (10-15 November)
Group 12: Austria*, Denmark, Malta, Albania (5-10 October)