Just four days are left to play in the UEFA U-19 championship in Poland but for the Czech Republic, Austria, perennial youth powers Spain, Portugal, Poland and Scotland, part of their mission has already been accomplished - all six have safely booked their passage to the world youth showpiece in Canada in 2007 following the conclusion of the final group stages at the weekend.
With the semi-finals scheduled for 26 July when Spain take on Austria and Czech Republic meet Scotland, the top three finishers from both groups A and B of the 8-team final tournament are assured of places in next year's U-20 competition.
Czechs and Austria stride ahead
Despite suffering a 4-2 opening defeat to Belgium, no-one could topple the Czechs, who went on to score victories in both of their other matches against Poland and Austria and claim pole position in Group A. It means that Miroslav Soukup's side head to the semi-final of the tournament for the first time in three years. Marek Strestik has caught the eye with three goals in the Czechs first three matches of the final group stage and will be keen to keep the party going after fully recovering from the back injury that saw him substituted against hosts Poland.
Austria, for their part, looked impressive in all of their three group matches and only missed out on top spot in the Group by virtue of the Czechs superior goal difference. After seeing off Slovenia, Russia and Hungary in the preliminary rounds, a 1-0 opening win over Poland was followed by a potentially demoralising 3-1 loss to the Czechs. But they bounced back with an emphatic 4-1 win over Belgium with Erwin Hoffer scoring twice in a dazzling display of football although the striker will sit out Wednesday's semi-final meeting with Spain through suspension.
Tournament hosts Poland, also booked a place in Canada as third-place finishers in the group with three points from a win over Belgium.
A 5-3 win over Turkey and a hat trick from Juan Mata sent a resounding warning to the rest of the competition and was followed by a 4-0 hammering of Scotland and a 1-1 draw against Portugal who, although going unbeaten with three consecutive draws, bowed out of the competition.
Scotland, led by coach Tommy Wilson and the legendary Archie Gemmill, managed to keep up the kind of form that saw them eliminate France in the preliminary rounds. Goals from Steven Fletcher and Charles Grant were enough to ride out a late Portuguese fight-back and finish 2-2 in their opening game. Their 4-0 defeat to Spain in the following match came as a shock but they were able to dust themselves down in time to ensure their progress with an admirable 3-2 win against Turkey.
The Scots will now take on the much-fancied Czechs in the semi finals. Despite their disappointment at not reaching the last four, Portugal will also be among the six UEFA pretenders in Canada as Turkey - with only one point from their three games - will miss out.
The winners of Wednesday's semi-finals will then go on to contest the UEFA U-19 Championship final on 29 July.
Seven of the Canada 2007's eventual 24-team field are now known as, along with Europe's six representatives - Canada also qualify automatically as hosts. The remaining confederations will battle out for their spots over the course of the next 12 months.