Euro challenge begins
By Nicholas Veevers in Tallinn
Tuesday, 03 July, 2012
U19s Head Coach Noel Blake and his squad ready for Euro opener with Croatia.
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake takes his side into their first group game of the European Championships in Tallinn on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to get off to a perfect start against Croatia.
Blake takes a fully fit squad of 18 players into the competition as this year group of players look to replicate their European U17 Championship title success from two years ago and he's been satisfied with the way in which the squad have prepared themselves for action.
"In terms of preparation, after the Elite Round, the players had a little break which they needed and we've then had a training camp," he said.
"The training camp has gone okay, there have been some difficulties with injuries and also some of our boys can't be here as they've been moved up but he squad we've brought here is the best squad that we've got available to us.
"From a personal point of view, I've been very pleased with the way they've worked, in their technical preparation, their tactical preparation and also their physical preparation.
"At this moment in time, I'm quite pleased with the group and how they're shaping up."
With only the last eight teams in Europe here in Estonia, Blake knows that it won't be easy in any of the group games and beyond, given how competitive it is to even reach this stage.
With Serbia and France completing Group B, and Greece, Portugal, Spain and hosts Estonia in the other group, there will be plenty of top football played before the champions are crowned on Sunday 15 July after a further semi-final and final.
"Eight nations are here, seven have qualified and the host nation and all of the coaches will tell you that getting here is very difficult," he added.
"It's always difficult to analyse opposition teams, as thyey can play one way against one team or a different way against another.
"From the teams that I've seen, there's a strong emphasis on the technical aspects of the game which is great to see as this is a development tournament.
"Some teams play a counter-attacking style and some a different way but they've all got their strengths and deficiencies.
"I know for a fact that at this level, there won't be any easy games, despite what people might think. Games in Europe are getting better.
"As a coach, I expect a tough campaign but once the ball is put away, we're all friends again and that's what the game is all about."