The UEFA European Under-19 Championship consists of three distinct stages: the qualifying round, the elite round and the final tournament.
The qualifying round, played in autumn, is made up of 13 groups of four teams playing in one-venue mini-tournaments. The top two from each progress alongside the third-placed team with the best record against the top pair in their group.
In the elite round, played in the spring, those 27 qualifiers join the top seed, given a bye, in seven mini-tournament groups of four. The group winners then join the hosts in the finals.
The seven qualifiers plus the hosts are split into two groups of four who play each other once, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals. The winners of those ties contest the final.
Further details, including the criteria for separating teams that finish level on points in a group, or after extra time in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.
An experiment changing the order of penalty kicks taken by teams in penalty shoot-outs is to feature at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 finals in the Czech Republic, which kick off on Tuesday.
The trial has been sanctioned by football's lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), as part of its 'play fair' initiative, and UEFA has agreed to take part. The experiment is looking at whether the advantage for the team taking the first penalty in a pair of spot kicks in a shoot-out could be reduced.
In the trial, the penalties in a shoot-out will see the team taking the first penalty in a pair of spot kicks alternate, instead of the teams automatically following each other in a sequence of pairs after the first penalty has been taken.
The trial system will work as follows:
• 1st kick: Team A – 2nd kick: Team B
• 3rd kick: Team B – 4th kick: Team A
• 5th kick: Team A – 6th kick: Team B
• 7th kick: Team B – 8th kick: Team A
• 9th kick: Team A – 10th kick: Team B
In the case of equality
• 11th kick: Team B – 12th kick: Team A
If still equal
• 13th kick: Team A – 14th kick: Team B,
and so on …
The trial will also be undertaken at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Croatia, which start on Wednesday.
IFAB says that the experiment follows growing evidence that the current penalty shoot-out system, as laid down in the Laws of the Game to determine the outcome of a match, gives an unfair advantage to the team taking the first penalty in each pair of spot kicks.
The hypothesis is that the player taking the second kick in the pair is under greater mental pressure, because if the opposition's first penalty in the pair has been successful, a miss by the second penalty-taker in the pair could mean the immediate loss of a match for his team, especially from the fourth pair of penalties onwards – i.e. the 7th and 8th spot kicks.
In the penalty shoot-out, as is currently the case, the referee will first toss a coin to decide which end of the pitch the penalty kicks will be taken at. And, as now, he/she will then toss the coin again, and the team winning this toss will decide whether to take the first or second penalty.
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