The final tournament of the 2015 UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship was the second to feature eight teams following the event's successful expansion in 2013/14 to an eight-nation final round.
Until those finals in England in November and December 2013, the tournament's previous six editions had comprised semi-finals, a third-place match and a final, so this was the first Women's Under-17 tournament to be played to the new format in the summer months. The two groups of four, leading to semi-finals and a final, made for a total of 15 games; this time, as a new departure for the WU17s, there was no third-place match, with no qualification requirement this year for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, a biennial event.
The task of staging the first eight-team summer final round for WU17s was successfully undertaken by the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ), who hosted the eight squads and delegations as well as UEFA organisational staff and the local organising committee (LOC) at two main sites in the Icelandic capital. For the 15 fixtures, six venues were used – three inside Reykjavik, one being next-door Kopavogur and two, Grindavik and Akranes, a 45-minute drive from tournament HQ. In total, 15 local clubs were involved for either their stadiums or their training facilities.
Two group games took place at the national stadium in Laugardalur while seaside Akranes offered a notably picturesque backdrop. Come the semi-finals and final, Reykjavik's 1,201 all-seater Valsvöllur was the setting, attracting a lively crowd of 757 for the decider itself, from an aggregate attendance figure of 6,360, at an average of 424 a match. The largest crowd en route to the final had been 807 for the Spain-France semi.
While the Spain-Switzerland showpiece started at 16.00 local time (or 18.00CET) on Saturday 4 July, all three group matchdays constituted two early and two late kick-offs, of 13.00 and 19.00 respectively, with the home nation always taking the later slot. The generally cool but pleasant Icelandic summer temperatures proved ideal for playing football.
If the expanded eight-team event means more developmental opportunities for teenage talents, it does likewise for the continent's emerging female match officials. Six referees, eight assistant referees – including two from the host country – and two fourth officials were chosen to further their refereeing formations at this UEFA final tournament. Just one from that number, Dutch referee Vivian Peeters, had prior experience of a European finals, coincidentally in Iceland at the Women's Under-19s of 2007.
The agenda for the Nordic nation's second hosting of a women's final round also featured the now traditional briefings on anti-doping education and match-fixing prevention, geared towards players who were mostly tasting international competition for the first time.
UEFA's technical team on site consisted of Jarmo Matikainen (Finland) and Béatrice von Siebenthal (Switzerland), with their observations supplying the basis for this technical report which, as well as presenting a permanent record of the event, aims to give useful information to coaches working at player development levels. With 44 UEFA member associations having begun the 2014/15 season with the goal of getting to Iceland, there should be no shortage of interest.
Béatrice von Siebenthal
Diarmuid Greene (Sportsfile)