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Under-17 elite round report

The UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round has produced the 15 opponents for hosts the Republic of Ireland in May.

  • Elite round results
  • Qualified: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands (holders), Portugal, Republic of Ireland (hosts), Russia, Spain, Sweden
  • Croatia (Group 3) miss out as the group runner-up with the eighth best record against the teams first and third in their section, after Sweden’s goal deep in added time against Serbia on Monday
  • Finals draw: 19:30CET, Thursday, Dublin Arena
  • Finals: Ireland, 3 to 19 May
  • The finals will act as UEFA’s qualifier for Europe’s five berths at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil later in the year.

Elite round groups

Group 1
Qualified: Italy, Austria

2018 U17 EURO review

Group 2
Qualified: Netherlands (holders), Czech Republic

Group 3
: England

Group 4
Qualified: Iceland, Germany

Group 5
: Spain, Greece

Group 6
Qualified: Portugal, Russia

Group 7
: Belgium, Hungary

Group 8
France, Sweden

The eight group winners and the seven runners-up with the best records against the teams first and third in their section join hosts the Republic of Ireland in the finals from 3 to 19 May. The draw is at Dublin Arena on Thursday.

  • The Netherlands equalled Spain’s record of three U17 titles last term
  • Other former winners qualified: England, France, Germany, Portugal, Russia

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How Porto made a champion of Pepe

Pepe won three league titles, two Spanish Cups and three UEFA Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, but having returned to the club he first served from 2004–07, the defender maintains that Porto were the making of him.


The Brazilian-born centre-back actually started out with Marítimo on the Portuguese island of Madeira but blossomed after joining Porto, winning two Ligas to earn Madrid’s attention. Now 36, he spoke to ahead of Porto’s meeting with Liverpool, hoping he might have more huge achievements to look back on once his playing days are over.

Pepe lifts the trophy for a third time

Pepe lifts the trophy for a third time©Getty Images

“[I have already won the UEFA Champions League three times] and this season it’s going to be four, God willing! We know we have a very difficult task, against a strong team [Liverpool] who play in the style of their coach. But we have to be ourselves, we have to be the same team we have been in this Champions League campaign, a cohesive team that fight for everything, looking for a positive result, looking to score goals – being ourselves. We have to respect Liverpool, who are a great team, but we are going to do our job.

“I’ll always say it was football that gave me everything in life – lots of friends, the chance to make my dreams come true. Returning to Porto was also my dream – to come back to the club where I was so happy. This is a team that taught me a lot and made me the player I am today.

Watch Porto's 2004 #UCL triumph

“The first time [I joined] was difficult because I’d left a small island to come to the mainland. I had to adapt very quickly because this was just after Porto had won the Champions League. Yet I identified strongly with the club, the people at the club made me feel very comfortable and provided the best working conditions for me.

“Porto improve every single player because this is a very demanding club. Porto prepared me really well and this didn’t go unnoticed in Spain, as before I went to Real Madrid the club were known as a graveyard for centre-backs. They had amazing centre-backs that had failed there. I came from a league viewed by many as not as competitive as others, but I played [at Madrid] for ten years and won many trophies.

Éder Militão joins Real Madrid in the summer

Éder Militão joins Real Madrid in the summer©Getty Images

“Now I’m back here with Porto, with a lot of [other] good central defenders. Defenders who, in my opinion, could very well be playing for a club like Real Madrid because they’ve a lot of quality. So much so that [Éder] Militão was bought by Madrid, right?!

“I moved to Beşiktaş [in 2017] primarily because I wanted to experience a new culture. I really enjoyed my time in Turkey – I’m always going to feel warmth for the people there who always treated me very well, and I’m always going to have a place in my heart for Beşiktaş, who then gave me the chance to [rejoin] the club that own my heart, Porto.”

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WU19 EURO elite round latest

The UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship elite round runs until Tuesday with the seven group winners to join hosts Scotland in the finals from 16 to 28 July.

Elite round groups

Group 1: Germany (hosts), Austria, Czech Republic, Greece

Group 2: Finland, Switzerland, Belgium (hosts), Poland

Group 3: Netherlands (hosts), Iceland, Russia, Bulgaria

2018 final highlights: Germany 0-1 Spain

Group 4: Spain (holders, hosts), Republic of Ireland, Hungary, Serbia

Group 5: Norway (hosts), Denmark, Ukraine, Northern Ireland

Group 6: England (hosts), Italy, Sweden, Turkey

Group 7: France (hosts), Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal

The seven group winners qualify to join hosts Scotland in the finals from 16 to 28 July. The draw is in Glasgow at 13:00CET (12:00 local time) on 16 April. The finals will act as UEFA’s qualifier for the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

  • Germany have won a record six titles
  • Bulgaria are making their elite round debut and Greece also hope to qualify for their first finals
  • Spain are aiming for a third title in a row having reached the last five finals
  • Norway and Denmark were last season’s two beaten semi-finalists
  • England beat Sweden to win the 2009 final; with Italy there are three former champions in Group 6

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Ajax v Juventus: Litmanen on their 1996 final meeting

Jari Litmanen was the top scorer in the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League with nine goals, but holders Ajax came up short in the final against Juventus.

The former Finland forward, now 48, reflects on success and failure with

On beating AC Milan in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final …

1995 final highlights: Ajax 1-0 Milan

We were really confident. We knew that we had beaten the reigning champions twice that season [2-0 home and away in the group stage], and we had played some very good and convincing football. The AC Milan team was full of players who had won several finals and lost one. Having such experience, AC Milan was at a different level than we were, but anything can happen in one match.

Patrick [Kluivert] has said this more than once when asked: that his goal was one of the ugliest goals of his career, but by far the most important. Everyone in our team definitely agrees. Now that time has passed, it feels more important that he got that ugly goal. It was such a liberating goal for our team. Of course, we had all dreamt of that trophy when we were young children.

On facing Juventus in the 1996 final …

Jari Litmanen was top scorer in 1995/96

Jari Litmanen was top scorer in 1995/96©Getty Images

Marc Overmars got injured in December and he was on the sidelines for the rest of the season. We were never able to completely replace him in the Champions League. We didn’t have another player like that. Michael Reiziger was suspended from the final. He had played consistently for nearly two years and was a very important piece of our defence. Kluivert also had a knee injury. He just came back in time for the final.

It was a 1-1 draw in normal time against Juventus. Then there were no goals in extra time and Juventus won on penalties. Some of our normal penalty takers were missing. We were pretty thin on the ground in that penalty shoot-out. It is also a skill to be able to take penalties in a shoot-out. The Juventus players remained very calm.

On Ajax’s chances in 2018/19 …

Highlights: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax

I see the very same signs [with Ajax] as the early 90s and mid-90s and also the early 2000s. There are talented young players in the team, a few more experienced players. The last two years have been very good. A good example is the Europa League final two years ago, when Ajax played Manchester United. That season, in fact, was a step forward internationally and there were signs that a new rise could be ahead.

The strengths of Juventus are well-known. The defence is very tight, there are several very disciplined players defensively and up front they have more than one player capable of scoring. Of course, every time Cristiano Ronaldo plays in any team, he will be the focus and certainly not without reason. Goals decide matches, and Cristiano Ronaldo can score goals wherever he plays.

It is obviously a different time, but of course my heart is with Ajax. I can remember Ajax’s history from quite far back. In 1973 Ajax won the European Cup final 1-0 [against Juventus]. In 1996 Ajax lost to Juve in the final and in 1997 we also lost [against them] in the semis. These two clubs have history in big encounters. Juventus are definitely the favourites. They have much more experience in these kinds of matches.

Ajax have, however, shown that when everything goes well, they have lots of possibilities and we may get quite an even tie. Of course, I hope that Ajax go through.

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Eagles v Eagles: Europa League quarter-finals in nicknames

The eight teams in the final stages of the UEFA Europa League are well known around Europe, but close friends get to call them by less formal names.

With Eagles set to meet Eagles in Lisbon (see this for more details about birds of European football), does the introductions.

Benfica v Frankfurt = Eagles v Eagles

Attila, the Frankfurt eagle

Attila, the Frankfurt eagle©Getty Images

Benfica – Águias (The Eagles)
The eagle that tops Benfica’s badge since their formation in 1904 is a symbol of independence, authority and nobility. The club currently has two real-live bald eagles, Vitória (Victory) and Glória (Glory), and before home games one of them flies around the stadium before landing on the club crest.

Eintracht Frankfurt – Adler (The Eagles) or Launische Diva (Moody Diva)
The club logo derives from the coat of arms of Frankfurt, which is a reference to the one-headed imperial eagle of the 13th century; like Benfica, their eagle (Attila) flies before every Frankfurt match. The ‘Launische Diva’ moniker is a nod to Eintracht’s 1990s habit of beating top teams but losing to lower-rated ones.

Arsenal v Napoli = Gunners v Partenopei

Gunnersaurus Rex

Gunnersaurus Rex©Getty Images

Arsenal – The Gunners
Arsenal were founded by armament workers in 1886 in Woolwich, a part of south-east London then associated with the military. Hence the name Arsenal, the cannon on the badge and, for consistency’s sake, the nickname. However, the stadium mascot is a not a gunner but a dinosaur, Gunnersaurus Rex.

Napoli – Partenopei
Partenopei reflects the city’s old name, Parthenope. In Greek mythology Parthenope was one of the Sirens who cast herself into the sea and drowned when her singing failed to entice Ulysses. The city was named in her honour as legend had it that her body washed up on the local island of Megaride.

Slavia v Chelsea = The Stitched v The Blues

Gonzalo Higuaín meets Chelsea's Stamford the Lion

Gonzalo Higuaín meets Chelsea’s Stamford the Lion©Getty Images

Slavia Praha – Sešívaní (The Stitched)
According to legend, the students who formed the club in 1892 asked their mothers to sew their shirts together for them, having opted for both red and white colours. The red evokes the heart that players put into games; the white stands for fair play and sportsmanship.

Chelsea – The Blues
Chelsea have always worn blue, initially the paler hue of Eton public school, alma mater of the club’s first president. Royal blue was adopted in 1912. ‘Blue is the Colour’ is still played at Stamford Bridge; the song performed by the squad that reached the 1972 League Cup final reached No5 in the UK charts.

Villarreal v Valencia = The Yellow Submarine v White and Blacks

The Yellow Submarine is still seaworthy in Europe

The Yellow Submarine is still seaworthy in Europe©Getty Images

Villarreal – El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine)
A bunch of supporters started the club’s association with the Beatles during a 1968 match at El Madrigal by changing the words of the hit song to “Amarillo es el Villarreal/amarillo es/amarillo es” (Villarreal are yellow …). Released in 1966, the real song inspired a 1968 cartoon film of the same name.

Valencia – Blanquinegros (White and Blacks) or Los Murciélagos (The Bats)
Valencia’s original kit almost a century ago consisted of white shirts with black shorts and socks, but the bat reference contains even more history, dating back to 1238. Legend has it that a bat landed on top of James I’s flag as he was about to conquer the city – he interpreted it as a positive sign and added it to the city’s coat of arms.

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