Pearce anticipates potential decider
Monday, 01 March, 2010
Denmark destiny may hinge on result against Greece says Under-21s Coach.
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Stuart Pearce is looking forward to the first match for his Under-21s team in nearly four months as they aim to secure top spot in their 2011 UEFA European Championship qualifying group.
The Three Lions take on Greece in Doncaster on Wednesday night, two hours before the Seniors kick-off at Wembley, knowing that a win will take them above the Greeks and into the Group Nine driving seat.
The game at the Keepmoat Stadium will be their last competitive match for a further six months, when the qualifying group finishes with a double-header in September. Victory over Greece will send England into the break one point ahead of their rivals, with a game in hand.
The Coach named a strong squad for the match, bolstered by the return of Jack Rodwell, Jack Wilshere and Lee Cattermole, and they looked sharp on the training pitch at Bottesford Town FC. However, Pearce will take nothing for granted come Wednesday night and expects nothing less than a tough encounter with both nations vying for a place in the play-offs for Denmark 2011.
“When you’re trying to galvanize a squad, it can be tough when there is such a big gap between matches. You like games to come along near each other,” Pearce told TheFA.com.
"This is such an important game, we're first and second in the group and who gets out of the group and into the play-offs will hinge very much on the result of this match.
“We can only look at this game in isolation with no more qualifiers until September, but if we can finish this international season with a victory then it really puts us in a strong position.”
The two teams last met in the Greek town of Tripoli in September. England arrived in Greece on the back a 2-1 victory in Macedonia four days earlier and took a swift lead in wet and typically English conditions when Daniel Sturridge scored after just four minutes.
But Panathinaikos winger Sotiris Ninis, who was last week hailed as ‘the future of Greek football’ after helping his club side progress past Roma in the Europa League, netted an equaliser just before the break when his long-range effort deflected past Scott Loach.
The Watford stopper was in fine form on the night denying both Ninis and Kostas Mitroglou further goals as England came away with a valuable point.
“Greece are a good workman-like side and over the 90 minutes in September they may well have shaded it slightly,” admitted Pearce. “But it was also down to a few naïve mistakes on our part which was very unlike us. They are a strong team and I’m expecting a tough game for both of us.
“I said from the offset that this group could be wide open with teams taking points from each other. With us drawing a couple, Portugal losing games and Greece having lost one now as well as the draw with us, it’s starting to pan out as I thought and I imagine there will still be a few twists and turns in between now and September.”
Pearce saw one of his squad withdraw due to injury on Monday, however, as Daniel Welbeck, who is on loan at Preston North End from Manchester United, was forced out with a knee injury.
Tickets for this game remain on sale at just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions (under 16 and over 60) and can be booked via the Keepmoat Stadium ticket hotline on 01302 762 576.
The match kicks off at the earlier time of 6pm prior to the England senior team’s 8pm fixture with Egypt at Wembley and will also be screened live on ESPN.