England U17s Head Coach John Peacock previews the Elite Round with FATV
UEFA European U17 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
23-28 March 2013
Burton Albion FC, Loughborough University Stadium & Walsall FC
Click here for fixtures
John Peacock takes his U17s into Euro Elite qualification over the next week, starting with Saturday’s game against Portugal.
The Young Lions know that they need to top their group over Portugal, Russia and Slovenia if they are to progress to May’s Finals in Slovakia.
And Head Coach Peacock says that the entire campaign he’s had with his squad is ultimately building towards reaching the last eight in Europe.
He told FATV: "It's a really important stage of the season.
"Since we first met up last August, everything is geared up towards getting qualification for the Euro Finals in Slovakia in May.
"To do that, we need to win the tournament, starting on Saturday against Portugal.
"It's a big challenge in front of us.”
The Elite Qualifying Round is a notoriously difficult stage to overcome, with back-to-back games against some of the best nations in Europe with only one team from four progressing.
And that’s why Peacock and his squad have been involved in events such as last August’s FA International Tournament and then the Algarve Tournament last month.
Peacock explained: "Tournament football is different to the games the lads play week in and week out and it’s something the players are not used to, with three games in six days.
"It's a tough group with Portugal, Russia and Slovenia and the importance of getting off to a good start is crucial on Saturday.
"All of our focus is now on getting that first result against Portugal.”
Peacock expects the group to be tight, with the ultimate winners not being decided until the final round of matches next Thursday.
That has often been the case over the years, and Peacock is one of the most experienced coaches around when it comes to this stage.
He added: "In my experience, after about 11 or 12 Euro qualifications, I can say there's probably only been only been once or twice that we’ve managed to get through after two games
"And I envisage it really going to the wire again, if I'm being honest.
"We need to make sure that by next Thursday for the last game, we need to be there, in and around and challenging for the qualification.”
Watch the full interview with John ahead of the Elite Round in the video player below.