VIDEO: Under-21s train in Romania
Jamie Bradbury in Botosani
Monday, 11 October, 2010
Stuart Pearce's side train in Botosani ahead of the Euro play-off second leg.
Click here to watch the training session
Stuart Pearce’s Under-21s landed in northern Romania on Sunday and were greeted by a firework display on the road outside of their hotel.
However, while their visit has been much-anticipated – it’s the first time an England Senior or Under-21s team have played in Romania since 1985 – the five-minute display wasn’t actually for the team, but for one of two weddings taking place in Botosani that night.
It didn’t cause too much disturbance, though, as the players rose on Monday morning and headed off to their match stadium for their final training session before Tuesday afternoon’s important Euro 2011 play-off second leg.
The Young Lions have brought with them a valuable 2-1 lead which they will be looking to protect, but the message from Pearce is that the team are here to win.
“I think the tie is still 50/50 and in the balance. Both teams have equal opportunity for progression to the Finals." he said on Monday morning. "They will not have the numbers here crowd-wise, but it will be a passionate affair, there is no mistake about that. The Romanians will be desperate to get to there next summer.”
The team are full of confidence following four straight victories this season and are developing a winning spirit throughout their youthful ranks. But they know not to be complacent against a talented side who played with pace and aggression at Carrow Road on Friday night.
The Romanians won all five of their home games during qualification, conceding just once, and only dropped five points on their travels as they won group one in style. They played two of their home matches in Botosani’s Municipal Stadium, beating both Faroe Islands and Russia 3-0.
The Municipal Stadium is home to Liga II outfit FC Botosani and holds a capacity 12,000 fans.
All 19 players in Pearce’s squad trained in the bright sunshine on Monday and went through their final session before the game, including first leg goalscorers Jordan Henderson and Chris Smalling.
Immediately after training, Pearce spoke to the awaiting Romanian press about the game. He was asked by one journalists if the team are prepared for penalties – a possible eventuality on Tuesday.
After defeat on the semi-final on penalties in 2007 and victory by the that method at the same stage in 2009, Pearce’s team always end a session, including today’s, with everyone taking a spot-kick.
“We have practised for two years,” he told them. “Since I first had the squad together we have practised after every training session.
“This is very important in world football, but we hope the game is settled before penalties. I think both teams will be thoroughly prepared by their two coaches.”
The Coach was also questioned on Romania’s chances in the match and if it would be a miracle for the home side to go through to the Finals on Tuesday.
“Romania won their group, we only qualified as runners-up to Greece in our group,” he said.
“Romania are the favourites over two legs to win the tie. They have conceded very few goals during qualification and we are very respectful of that.
“Whichever side gets to the Finals in the summer will have worked very hard to get there.”
He added: “I know the coach feels has though he has a very good squad of players for Romania, the same as we do with the English Under-21s.”
For now, the talking is over, and when England return to the Municipal Stadium on Tuesday, it will be down to business for the Young Lions. They know they are 90 minutes away from their goal – a place in Denmark 2011.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm local time on Tuesday, which is 12.30pm BST, and will be broadcast live on ESPN. You can also follow regular updates here or via www.twitter.com/thefadotcom.