Stuart Pearce says he is looking forward to pitting his wits against Europe's finest next summer.
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Finals
15-29 June 2009
Malmo, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Halmstad, Sweden
After being drawn in the same group as Spain, Finland and Germany for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Finals, England Under-21 Head Coach, Stuart Pearce, admits he is relishing the chance to pit his wits against the finest teams on the Continent.
England qualified for the Finals by beating Wales in a two-legged Play-Off in October, after they topped their qualifying group with 22 points from eight matches and - penalty shoot-outs aside - they have not suffered defeat under Pearce's tenure.
They will travel to Sweden in June confident of bettering their performance in the 2007 European Championship when they narrowly lost out to Holland in a mammoth semi-final shoot-out, but with traditional powerhouses Spain and Germany and an attractive Finland side initially standing in their way, Pearce knows his side face a tough task if they are to triumph next summer.
"No matter who we got [it was going to be a difficult draw]," he said. "We'll have a good look at all the teams and do as much homework as we can with regards to the opposition - we're very thorough and we believe in our preparation.
"We only have three or four friendly matches leading into the Finals, but in that time it gives my players an opportunity to show me they're on good form and it also gives us five or six months to look at the opposition and their strengths and weaknesses."
Pearce has a talented crop of youngsters to choose from and he is prepared to give as many eligible players a chance to stake a claim for inclusion in the tournament squad.
"I need to make sure that I give every player an opportunity to fight for a place," he revealed. " It [will be] exciting for the young players that are going to play next summer. We've not got to a Final for a long time so it's important that we do well in this tournament.
"One thing is for certain - whichever team lifts the trophy, they're going to have to work very hard to [do so]."