England U20s are back in action on Tuesday night, as they face Italy at QPR.
England v Italy
International U20 Match
7pm, Tuesday 31 March 2009.
Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers FC
Tuesday night sees England U20s begin their preparations for this year's FIFA U20 World Cup, when they host Italy at Loftus Road.
The Young Lions secured their spot at the competition, to be held in Egypt in September, courtesy of their performance at the European U19 Championship Finals last summer and many of the players involved then are now back in the international fold as U20s.
Players like Manchester City's Daniel Sturridge, Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs and West Ham's James Tomkins and Freddie Sears were all involved in that U19 squad and they have also gone on to feature in the Premier League for their clubs this season and will still be available for the World Cup.
The team will be coached by Noel Blake on Tuesday evening, and he was involved with the U19s last season when they reached the last eight in Czech Republic.
“Whilst we were delighted to have qualified for the World Finals, we were very disappointed at the time not to have at least made it to the semi-finals of the European Finals,” he explained.
“Looking back at those games we played last year, we felt that we played some good football overall, but just lacked a little killer instinct in the final third at vital times and our failure to score against Italy, when we drew 0-0, was to ultimately prove to be one of the reasons why we did not make the semi-finals at least.”
The Young Lions now have a chance to avenge that result in west London, with several of the visiting Azzurrini squad having played in that game in Jablonec in July.
“The Italians have proved to be very strong opposition at all levels of the game and we will learn a great deal from the players involved, as they will be facing very formidable opponents," added Blake.
“International football at all levels is tough and demanding. You know that at some stage in every contest the opposition will have long spells of possession and they will have the quality to not only cause you problems but also to be very damaging and clinical in the blink of an eye.
“So, how we cope when we are out of possession on Tuesday will be critical.”
Blake has already seen a number of the initial squad of players withdraw, with last season’s captain Jack Cork out of action along with the likes of Fabian Delph, Andy Carroll and Tom Cleverley.
With replacements called up in the shape of Junior Stanislas, Adam Clayton, Joack Colback and Tope Obadeyi, Blake will be taking a close look at the options which may be available for England in the coming months.
“It is an important game in terms of us looking at the options we will have available to us when the Finals comes around in September,” he added.
“Having secured qualification, our next aim is to prepare the players and look at the various options that may or may not be available to us.”