First-placed Croatia and the Netherlands progressed from Group 11, holding off the challenge from Finland, who gave the eventual section winners a real test in their opening game.
Article top media content
Croatia and the Netherlands progressed from UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round Group 11, holding off the challenge from Finland.
Although Finland had been identified as a danger to the top seeds, both Croatia and the Dutch hosts defeated them by two-goal margins to book elite round places with a game to spare. That match was drawn 0-0, giving Croatia first position on goal difference, while Finland beat Moldova 4-2 for the consolation of third.
There was a thrilling start to the opener between Croatia and Finland. Within five minutes Dani Hatakka had cancelled out Marko Livaja's opener for Croatia, who were soon back in front through Ante Rebić. On the quarter-hour Finland captain Tim Väyrynen missed a penalty when Mateo Kovačić fouled Nikolai Alho, but he did pull one back before the break after Livaja had made it 3-1. However, Finland's hopes were dashed when 89th-minute substitute Danijel Miškić clinched a 4-2 win in added time.
The Netherlands saw off Moldova 3-0 when a 32nd-minute Elvis Manu strike and two after the break by Davy Klaassen, and a Dutch side containing several of last season's European U17 champions overcame Finland 2-0 thanks to Fernando Lewis and Ouasim Bouy. That was good enough to book a 29 November draw spot as Croatia emulated the Netherlands with a 4-0 defeat of Moldova including a Mario Jelavić hat-trick.