Joel Lopez took a break from the Arsenal u18s this past week, to help Spain to progress to the next round of the UEFA u17 Championship.
To briefly explain the qualification system: First, there’s a qualifying round. There are 13 groups of four teams and each team plays the others in their group once. The two highest finishing teams automatically qualify from each group for the second round, known as the ‘Elite Round’.
The Elite Round is essentially another round of group qualifiers. There are eight groups, drawn in Nyon, Switzerland on December 6th. The winners of each group, plus the seven best second-placed teams, qualify for the actual competition next year. The Republic of Ireland automatically qualify as the 16th team, since they’re the hosts.
Spain’s u17 side played their first round of qualifying matches over the last week. They defeated Macedonia 1-0, Faroe Islands 6-0 and Israel 3-0, so it couldn’t have gone much better.
Academy summer signing Joel Lopez took part in two of the three games, playing 45 minutes against Macedonia and the full 90 against Faroe Islands. Confusingly, he had to compete with similarly-named Javi Lopez for a spot, who played the other 135 minutes of the group stage.
Arsenal’s Lopez posted a couple of pictures to Instagram afterwards to celebrate qualification:
England and Germany didn’t have to take part in the first round, as they both received byes. They’ll both join the rest of the teams for the Elite Round.