By Nicholas Veevers
Sunday, 30 September, 2012
Noel Blake knows his side face a tough battle for top spot with Ukraine
England U19s bring the First Qualifying Round of the 2013 Euro Championships to an end on Monday afternoon when they meet Ukraine in Tallinn, looking to seal top spot in their group.
Noel Blake’s side are sitting in pole position after the first two games following victories against Estonia and Faroe Islands and whilst Ukraine have also registered six points from the same fixtures to join the Young Lions in the draw for next spring’s Elite Round, England’s superior goals-scored record gives them a slight advantage.
By finishing in first place at this stage means England would be seeded in the draw for the Elite Round, so by avoiding defeat on Monday, Blake’s first target for the season would be achieved.
However, the Head Coach also knows that Ukraine will be by far the toughest of England’s three opponents in this group and having faced them before on numerous occasions at both U19 and Senior level in recent years, Blake has warned his side about the test awaiting for them.
“You only had to see the difficulties that our Senior team faced when they played Ukraine in the Euros and then again at Wembley a few weeks ago,” explained Blake.
“We’ve faced Ukraine at youth level on various occasions ourselves over the years, so we know the difficulty of this fixture.”
With Ukraine also knowing that they have to win this game in order to stand any chance of topping the table themselves, England will certainly be under pressure from the kick-off on Monday and Blake is well aware of how surprises can easily happen with fierce competition to progress in UEFA youth tournaments.
“You only have to look at the U17s qualifying group last season, with Ukraine, Spain and Georgia, who ended up going through,” he added. “So you can take nothing for granted.
“And if we qualify from this group in first place, we’ll have earned it.”
Meanwhile, England go into the game without the services of Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom, who is suspended after collecting cautions in the previous two games.