'High pressure games'
Wednesday, 05 October, 2011
Stuart Pearce is expecting two tough encounters this week.
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Stuart Pearce received a cool welcome in Iceland on Wednesday, as his England Under-21s squad swapped an Indian summer back home for near-freezing temperatures in the North Atlantic.
Having landed in Reykjavik late on Tuesday, Pearce’s young charges undertook their first training session at Thursday night’s match venue, Laugardalsvollur, Iceland’s national stadium and home to their own Football Association.
The neat stadium – which should see upwards of 6,000 spectators present for the Group 8 qualifier of the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship – certainly hosted the most intense session of the get-together so far, with Pearce under no illusions as to the challenge ahead.
“These are real high pressure games,” said Coach Pearce ahead of the Iceland and Norway fixtures his side face in the next five days.
“Iceland have done extremely well in recent years and their form at Under-21 level is certainly improving.
“Getting to the Finals this summer was a great achievement and let’s not forget, they beat us in March, on home soil.
“I think they are well organised and have got some extremely talented players and a really good work ethic, collectively as a team. I have seen them on DVD and I see these attributes again and again from them.”
Both England and Iceland suffered the same fate at this summer’s Finals in Denmark, bowing out prior to the semi-final stage, and so for both the new campaign represents a chance to put that disappointment firmly behind them.
For Pearce in particular that regret is behind him now, but he admits the pressure of results always lingers.
“There are pressures on all of us in qualification; those pressures go up again when you get in to the play-offs and those pressures go up once again when you get in the major tournaments.
“People talk about results versus development at this level, but I think the results bring the development.
“This summer, in the tournament, the players that went in the England and Iceland squads will have developed greatly from the experience they had. If you don’t get the results and don’t get to the tournaments to have the extra matches, then you don’t develop.”
Having seen three first choice picks fast-tracked to senior team duty earlier this week, as well as a further three players lost to sickness and injury, Pearce is happy with his current 23-strong group, all of whom are fighting fit ahead of tomorrow.
“Everyone’s is here and everyone is saying to me that they are fit and available to play. They are putting competition and pressure on each other and that is fantastic.
“There is a great spirit here and we’ve got half a dozen players who have experience of European Championship football, and they have had to help the younger players settle in, and they have settled in very quickly. I am looking forward to seeing them play and see how we get on.”
The match on Thursday night will be broadcast live in England on ESPN.
For tickets for England's next home game against Iceland at Colchester United on 10 November, click here for ticket details.