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Netherlands challenged in Norway

The Netherlands go into Group 5 with much of the squad that won the 2011 U17 title but Wim van Zwam knows Germany, Cyprus and hosts Norway do not allow room for error.

Netherlands coach Wim van Zwam
Netherlands coach Wim van Zwam ©Randi Sokoloff

The Netherlands have not reached the finals since 2010 but have much of the squad that claimed the 2011 U17 title and won all three qualifying matches and have since beaten Scotland (2-1) and the Czech Republic (6-0). The March friendly in Zagreb against Croatia was goalless when abandoned at half-time due to heavy snowfall. "The elite round will be decided by details; at this age, mistakes are punished immediately so it's about how mature we are," said coach Wim van Zwam. "We have to take it a match at a time; if we want to qualify, we can't really afford to drop any points."

Key players: Anass Achahbar (forward, Feyenoord), Nathan Aké (defender, Chelsea FC), Karim Rekik (defender, Blackburn Rovers FC), Kyle Ebecilio (midfielder, Arsenal FC)

Qualifying round: Malta 5-0, San Marino 4-0, Poland 3-1 (Group 3 winners)

Christian Ziege's team have enjoyed a solid season to date, remaining unbeaten in the elite round; however, they have lost to Italy (0-1) and Denmark (1-4) in friendlies this year, the latter their final warm-up fixture for the elite round. Wins against France (3-0), Spain (1-0) and Ukraine (2-0) should ensure morale remains high, however.

Key players: Koray Günter (defender, Borussia Dortmund), Sebastian Kerk (midfielder, SC Freiburg), Fabian Schnellhardt (midfielder, 1. FC Köln), Serge Granbry (forward, Arsenal FC)

Qualifying round: FYROM 5-0, Luxembourg 5-0, Republic of Ireland 2-2 (Group 5 winners)

Having effectively booked their place in this stage with wins in their first two qualifying round fixtures, Øivind Nilsen's side recorded a draw (0-0) and a win (1-0) against Switzerland in their final warm-up fixtures. "The team played well in the last match and now we're looking ahead to three games against very good opponents," said coach Nilsen. "Our preparations need to be spot on. We look forward to the challenge, and I have a decent hope of progressing further."

Key players: Øystein Øvretveit (goalkeeper, SK Brann), Bård Finne (forward, SK Brann), Viljar Vevatne (defender, Viking FK), Mohamed Elyounoussi (forward, Sarpsborg 08 FF)

Qualifying round: Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1, Kazakhstan 6-2, Slovakia 1-2 (Group 8 runners-up)

At this stage for the second year running – although they lost all three elite round games in 2011/12, scoring two goals and conceding 14 – Cyprus recovered from losing their opening qualifying round fixture to Denmark to take four points off Finland and Montenegro and clinch second place in Group 2 on home soil. "It feels great to have qualified again," said coach Apostolos Makrides. "It's a unique thing for Cyprus to repeat the trick of reaching the elite round."

Key players: Kristis Andreou (forward, 1. FC Slovácko), Christos Tzamas (defender, APOEL FC), Jack Sammoutis (midfielder, Millwall FC), Adamos Andreou (midfielder, Anorthosis Famagusta FC)

Qualifying round: Denmark 1-3, Finland 1-0, Montenegro 1-1 (Group 2 runners-up)

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