Blake: 'Pleasing performances'
Monday, 11 October, 2010
Head Coach happy with Euro victories so far.
By Nicholas Veevers
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake reflected on Sunday’s victory over Cyprus and a passage to the Elite Qualifying Round with joy.
The Young Lions convincingly saw off opposition from Cyprus to follow on from Friday’s 6-1 win over Albania and given the results in the other games, that is enough to have secured progress from the First Qualifying Round.
Blake’s team now face Belgium on Wednesday afternoon and with the group hosts also having won both of their games, it becomes a straight play-off for top spot.
“Belgium have won both games, so we're both through to the Elite Round,” said Blake.
“We know they're decent, but I'm only concentrating on England. We're scoring goals, defending well and passing the ball nicely so that's very pleasing.
“We’re very pleased with the goals we've scored over the last two games and we've kept a clean sheet as well, which is important.”
Blake has also made use of his 18-man squad over the course of the two games, with every player now having started a match after four changes to the line-up for Sunday’s game.
It paid off too, as striker Benik Afobe netted a hat-trick against Cyprus, whilst goalkeeper Jed Steer saved a penalty to give Blake a real selection head-ache for the third and final match on Wednesday.
“We made four changes to the side against Cyprus, Jed's come in and saved a penalty and Benik's got a hat-trick so everyone in the squad has started a game over here which is great for confidence,” he explained.
“The pitch wasn't the greatest but part of the experience for these players is the environment. These grounds are different to what they're used to at home and it challenges them mentally.
“The players passed and retained the ball well on a difficult surface and didn't switch off either so that was very pleasing.”
Afobe’s treble took his tally at U19 level to four goals in three games, following on from a good record with both the U16 and U17 teams in recent years too.
“We're pleased with how Benik took his goals,” added Blake. “Harry Kane was unlucky not to get three against Albania on Friday. We could have given him the penalty then, but that's Jonjo's role and we have to maintain professionalism in our approach to these games.”