Head Coach speaks ahead of Tuesday's Group A opener with France.
By Nicholas Veevers in Novi Sad.
With the start of the European U17 Championship Finals in Serbia set to start on Tuesday afternoon, England Head Coach John Peacock
took his place alongside his Group A rivals in Novi Sad for the official tournament press conference.
The Young Lions start their campaign against France at FK Indjija as they aim to repeat last year’s success in winning this competition, but with a new squad under his wing, Peacock knows that this is a different year and a different challenge.
England have already proved themselves amongst Europe’s best by knocking out one of the favourites in Spain in the Elite Qualifying Round in March and are now down to the last eight here, hoping to go one step further.
“First and foremost, it was a very difficult qualification and we have great memories of succeeding in the tournament last year, but it’s about looking forward now,” said Peacock.
“We have to look forward and we have to try and develop from that qualification, but we have a very difficult task as there are three excellent teams in this group.
“It won’t be easy but we’re looking forward to it.”
Also in Group A are Denmark and host nation Serbia, who England play in that order after their match with the French and with Germany, Holland, Romania and Czech Republic contesting Group B, Peacock feels that it’s been a good draw for everyone involved.
“When the draw was made a few weeks ago, I thought it was a very fair draw. The two groups are equally matched,” he explained.
“In terms of understanding more about our opponents, I don’t think there are any secrets in the game anymore. There are lots of DVDs now of the opposition.
“I’ve not really had the facility to go and watch the opposition live, but we’ll deal with it and we understand the qualities of each team here.”
The nations here are also competing for a place in June’s FIFA U17 World Cup, which takes place in Mexico. Six of the eight teams from these Finals will progress to that competition, decided by their performance here so a win on Tuesday will put England in a very strong position to qualify for another competitive tournament.
“We hope to get off to a good start and it’s everybody’s aim to try and do that, as it does help if you can get three points in your opening game,” he added.
“A win sets you up nicely for the next two games, but it’s about managing the tournament and the three games will be very difficult so we just want to give ourselves a chance to get to the final stages.”
Aside from captain Nathaniel Chalobah
, who featured in last year’s Finals in Liechtenstein, the experience of a full UEFA Finals is new for the rest of the squad and Peacock believes it can only help each and every player in their long term development both as a footballer and as people.
“I think the importance of qualifying for the UEFA Finals and the FIFA Finals can’t be underestimated, in terms of a young player’s development,” he explained.
“It’s about giving them the experience of playing against the best teams in Europe and hopefully the world.
“We’ve all got experiences of players who have gone on from this level to become senior international players and gained much experience from being put in this competition environment.
“The players live together for 24 hours a day and sometimes for two or three or even four weeks at a time if you manage to reach the FIFA Finals.
“That is all good experience for the long term development of young players, and hopefully top players in our country and I’m sure every other country.”