The UEFA European Under-17 Championship consists of three distinct stages: the qualifying round, the elite round and the final tournament. The format changed for 2014/15 with the expansion of the final tournament from eight to 16 teams.
The qualifying round, played in autumn, is made up of 13 groups of four countries playing in one-venue mini-tournaments. The top two from each pool progress alongside the five third-placed sides with the best record against the leading pair in their groups.
In the elite round, held in early spring, those 31 qualifiers plus the top seed – given a bye this far – compete in eight mini-tournament groups of four. The group winners and seven runners-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their section advance to the finals to join the hosts.
In the final tournament the contenders are split into four groups of four, with the front two from each proceeding to the knockout phase.
Further details, including the criteria for separating sides that finish level on points in a group, or after 80 minutes in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.
By taking his tally to seven with a first-half double in Portugal's 5-0 defeat of Azerbaijan on Thursday, José Gomes became the joint-leading scorer in the 2015/16 UEFA European Under-17 Championship. As keen students of the UEFA Youth League – where the Guinea-Bissau-born player registered seven goals for Benfica this season – will know, the final tournament in Azerbaijan is not the first competition in which the forward, known to his team-mates and friends as Zé Golo, has made his mark.
On scoring twice in the opening 16 minutes against the hosts ...
It's always good to do that because it saps the confidence from your opponents and helps the team achieve its objectives. I managed to evade the defenders who were marking me. Given that there were three Azerbaijan players in my area, I did well to get into a position to score with a header from a corner. My second goal came after a mix-up between a defender and the goalkeeper and I was able to capitalise. When the ball came to me I was very calm and cold.
On potentially winning the U17 EURO golden shoe …
It's positive because a lot of people are watching this tournament. Alongside me I have my club-mate, João Filipe, who is also doing well [with seven goals in qualifying]. I hope he also gets more and can help the team – it's a good position to be in.
On how he and strike partner João Filipe push each other on …
In training I often say: 'Let's have a competition to see who can score the most goals.' Sometimes he wins, sometimes I do.
On how beneficial the UEFA Youth League has been in his development ...
It's a good experience. The club gave me the opportunity [to play as a 17-year-old in a U19 competition] and I took advantage of it with seven goals. We travelled with the senior team to Kazakhstan [to play Astana in November]. It was a good idea by UEFA to give young players the chance to mix with older ones. We were with the people from the club we look up to. It was very positive.
On Renato Sanches being an inspiration …
He's my friend. I liked one of his Instagram posts when we were on our way here. Seeing him in the first team and playing in major competitions is a big source of motivation. I want to do the same.
On his journey from Guinea-Bissau to Portuguese giants Benfica …
The first time I went to Portugal was in 2011. I played for my academy in a youth cup in the Algarve. I performed well and scored a lot of goals. Afterwards I returned to Guinea and my father didn't want me to leave because I was very young. However, my mother [who lives in Portugal] managed to convince my father to allow me to go. It was worthwhile. My mother said it was a unique chance to do what I love: playing football.
On his earliest football memory …
There was a sand field in Guinea-Bissau near my house. My mother was always telling me to come inside, but I wanted to play – even barefoot. I would sometimes go to bed, wait for her to fall asleep and then go out. I once cut my foot and I was scared to return home!
On the players he admires …
Luis Suárez because of his positioning, but the person I really look up to is Thierry Henry.
2015/16 UEFA European Under-17 Championship top scorers
José Gomes (Portugal) 7
João Filipe (Portugal) 7
Reiss Nelson (England) 7
Teddy Bergqvist (Sweden) 5
Jens Odgaard (Denmark) 5
Dylan Vente (Netherlands) 5
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