Monday, June 6, 2011

Last Eight For UEFA U-19 European Championships Finalised

Last years runners up, Spain, and Turkey have won through their UEFA Elite Phase Groups to complete the last eight the UEFA U-19 European Championships.

They will join, hosts, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Czech Republic and Ireland when the competition begins in earnest next July.

With so many teams and matches to played, UEFA had taken the decision to split qualification for the U19 Championships into two distinct group phases. The second phase of which was run as a mini competition over three games across seven groups of four teams.

Serbia became the first team to qualify, after the host nation, when the strolled through Group 6 of the Elite Phase despite losing their opening fixture to Wales. A hat-trick from Lokomotiv Plovdiv's Nenad Lukic - the young midfielder scored six goals in just five games - in the decisive game against Norway was the highlight of their qualification.

The Czech Republic qualified in dramatic fashion, despite going unbeaten in their group, as with eight minutes to go in their final game against Israel they were in second place behind Russia. However, a late goal from Martin Sladky was enough to put them 2-1 up on Israel and see them leap frog the 2018 World Cup hosts.

One of the biggest shocks of qualification came from Greece when they knocked out the reigning Champions France with one game to spare. The Ethniki will head to Romania unbeaten and will provide a stern test for whomever they are drawn against.

In the first game of Group 1 Belgium beat Portugal while Croatia beat Estonia, so game two was always going to be a winner takes all issue. A late strike from Thorgen Hazard was enough to beat the Croats 3-2, Marin Mic had just equalised for the in the 86th minute before Hazard fired home on 89 to take all three points and guaranteed qualification for Romania 2011.

Elsewhere, Spain qualified on goal difference over England with a 1-1 draw in the final game of the group. While Turkey accounted for Germany with a superb 1-0 victory. The young Turk's were trailing Christian Ziege's team on goal difference heading into the last game so anything less than a win would have seen Germany qualify.

The two teams were only separated by a superb captains performance from Muhammet Demir who scored a 22nd minute free kick from just outside the area.

With the most powerful nations crashing out unexpectedly, Italy headed into the final game of their qualification only needing a draw against Ireland. However, Paul Doolin's team had not read the script and, needing a win, tore into their opponents from the off and recorded an astounding 3-0 win to qualify for the finals for the first time in nine years.

2010/11 UEFA European Championship elite round
Qualifiers in bold
Group 1: Belgium, Portugal, Croatia*, Estonia
Group 2: Spain, England, Switzerland*, Montenegro
Group 3: Greece, France, Slovakia*, Belarus
Group 4: Republic of Ireland, Italy, Ukraine, Poland*
Group 5: Czech Republic*, Russia, Netherlands, Israel
Group 6: Serbia, Wales, Norway*, Moldova
Group 7: Turkey*, Germany, Macedonia, Hungary

The draw for the finals, which begin on 20 July and culminate on 1 August, takes place at the headquarters of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) on Wednesday at 17.30 local time (16.30CET).