An opportunity to shine
Wednesday, 23 February, 2011
Players can stake Euro claim in Algarve Tournament.
by Glenn Lavery
John Peacock has taken his England U17 side to Portugal to compete in the annual Algarve Tournament, and while the Head Coach is looking for three good performances he says preparation for next month’s European Championship qualifiers is the main aim of the trip.
England have made it through to the Elite Qualifying Round where they will take on Northern Ireland, Spain and host nation Belgium in March and the next three matches in the Algarve gives them an ideal platform to test themselves against top-quality opposition ahead of those qualifiers.
Peacock’s young charges face Romania on Thursday, Germany on Friday and Portugal on Sunday, three quick-fire games which will test the players’ power of recovery and their ability to quickly adapt from one game to the next; key factors in any tournament situation.
“We have had three days of very good preparation ahead of our first game,” Peacock said, from the team’s Albufeira base.
“It’s the first time we’ve got together as a group since October and this tournament gives me a chance to look at some players I think I need to know a bit more about. I’ve left five or six players at home from the squad we took out to Georgia. We’ve got a couple of new players with us and ones that I haven’t seen since the International Tournament in August.
“Everyone will get time on the pitch and everyone will start at least one game to give them the chance to show what they can do.”
The squad is a blend of experienced youth internationals like Jordan Cousins, Nathan Redmond and Sam Magri, and a few players relatively new to the England set-up in the shape of Jack Dunn, George Evans and Cauley Woodrow, but, as Peacock alluded to, this tournament gives him the opportunity to blood new players in anticipation of the Elite Qualifying Round.
“This is a very good group of players both on and off the pitch so the new players have been made to feel welcome, as you’d expect,” Peacock said, on how the squad have integrated. “None of the newer lads have looked out of place and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action this week.”
First up for England is Romania, and the Head Coach is expecting his players to be presented with a new challenge when they line up in Lagos.
“Romania have qualified for the Elite Round as well so they will probably be treating this week the same as we are; getting everyone prepared for the competition they will face in those games,” he explained. “We managed to look at some DVDs of their qualifying campaign in October. They can play, they like to pass the ball about, as we do, but they like to defend a little bit deeper than our players would be used to in their Academy games. We will probably have a lot of possession and they will look to counter us so we have to be ready for that.
“We’re up against three good teams here, so it will be a tough test for all the players, whether they’ve had experience of international football before or not,” he continued. “For me, it’s about seeing how they manage the occasion, manage the week and, of course, manage the games.
“We are keen to do well this week, but one thing that is key in everyone’s mind is preparing everybody for the European qualifiers. We have to finish top of a very tough group in March and this will be a great challenge for us ahead of that.
“So, while we would like to win and play well as individuals and as a team, the main objective is no more than identifying the squad that we will take to Belgium for the qualifiers.”