- For the first time there will be 12 teams in the final tournament
- Hosts Poland will be joined by 11 qualifiers in the finals in June 2017
- The nine group winners qualify automatically
- The four runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their group will go into the play-offs for the remaining two berths
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- Current top scorer: Patrick Schick (Czech Republic) 10 – all the statistics
Denmark and Portugal are the first names confirmed alongside hosts Poland in next summer’s Under-21 finals following the conclusion of the penultimate clutch of qualifiers.
Youri Tielemans’ late winner in Louvain has shaken things up in Group 1. The Czech Republic would have secured qualification had they beaten Belgium, but the home side’s success means they are now within two points of the section leaders – and crucially the Czechs have a game in hand.
Federico Di Francesco scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Andorra to leave Italy six points clear of Serbia at the head of the standings, though they are not yet certain to finish top. The Serbs leapfrogged Slovenia into second with a 3-2 triumph against the Republic of Ireland, captain Uroš Djurdjević getting two of their goals in Novi Sad.
Lyon’s Corentin Tolisso scored twice as France won 2-0 at home against Iceland, who had started the night as group leaders. The new frontrunners are FYR Macedonia, 2-0 victors against Northern Ireland. They will clinch first place if they overcome Scotland in their final match, provided Iceland do not collect maximum points from their remaining fixtures.
Portugal rubber-stamped their ticket to the finals after Gelson Martins struck the only goal of their game against Greece in Barcelos. Israel are second, seven points adrift of the leaders, following a 4-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein.
Poland beckons for Denmark after they prevailed 3-1 at home against their nearest rivals Romania. Pione Sisto put them in front on ten minutes, and the contest was effectively over by half-time as Marcus Ingvartsen netted twice in quick succession.
A competitive section remains too close to call after all three contenders dropped points. Sweden‘s 1-1 home draw with Spain on Monday should have been great news for pacesetters Croatia, but it took two goals from Udinese’s Stipe Perica to earn them a 2-2 draw in Georgia the following day.
Sauli Väisänen’s own goal in Finland spawned an eighth successive win for Germany, who are five points clear at the top with two matches to play. Austria – who drew 1-1 in Russia – are the only team that can deny them a finals place.
Slovakia‘s position was strengthened on Friday when Netherlands and Belarus drew 2-2 in Minsk. Slovakia then triumphed 3-0 in Cyprus to move five points clear and they need only draw with either Belarus or Turkey next month to wrap up pole position. Only the Netherlands can still catch them.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford hit a hat-trick on his U21 debut as England battered Norway 6-1 in Colchester, a result which lifted them two points clear at the top of the section, their main rivals Switzerland unable to break down ten-man Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
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