Captain Ciaran Clark feels that the experience of qualifying can aid England in the finals.
UEFA European U19 Championships
Prague & Liberec, Czech Republic
14-26 July 2008
Click here for the full tournament details
England U19 captain Ciaran Clark believes the experience gained from the Elite Qualifying Round in Belarus will stand the Young Lions in good stead for the European U19 Championships.
Clark and his squad mates head to the Czech Republic next week, where they will face three group games before hopefully progressing to the semi-finals and maybe onwards.
Back in May, Brian Eastick’s team were in a similar scenario during the final qualification stage, when they were based in Belarus for games against Poland, Serbia and the hosts in order to seal their place in the finals.
With wins against Poland and Serbia in the first two games, they then had to face Belarus knowing that if they avoided defeat, it would be enough for them to progress to the finals.
However, Belarus also had a chance if they could win and with a sell out crowd at the Traktor Stadium and live on national television, the pressure on England to succeed was increased.
Clark led the team through a tough game though and the 0-0 result sealed their spot at the finals, where England take part in the tournament’s opener with the Czech Republic, live on Eurosport and in front of a sizeable crowd.
The similarities between that and their previous game in Minsk mean that Clark hopes the players can take their experiences forward and into the finals.
“We kept three clean sheets out in Belarus, got good results and ground out a draw in the last game but that’s what we needed and everyone was pleased with it,” he told TheFA.com.
“It was a full house and they had to win to qualify in their home country, so it was a tough game and we had to grind it out and we did that so we topped the group.
“We were under the cosh a little bit towards the end, we defended well though, kept a clean sheet which was exactly what the coaches and everyone wanted.
“We’re going to play the Czech Repuiblic in the first game, which is on their patch so that’s going to be another tough game and what we’re thinking about and preparing for now.”
After that, England play Italy and Greece before finding out if they have done enough to secure a place in the final four and Clark believes the Young Lions know what they can anticipate from their opponents.
“We know what to expect from these three teams,” added the 18-year-old Aston Villa defender.
“They will probably be technically better than the three teams we played in Belarus.
“The team is bonding together nicely and one loss all season means confidence is high.
“We’ve kept five or six clean sheets too, so that’s always good and we’re pleased with it.”