Noel Blake eyeing up Euro progress over the next week.
UEFA European U19 Championship
First Qualifying Round
Albania, Belgium, Cyprus, England
8-13 October 2010
Malmedy & Vise, Belgium
Click here for fixtures
By Nicholas Veevers
England U19 Head Coach Noel Blake takes his squad into competitive action on Friday, as they get their European Championship campaign underway in Belgium.
The Young Lions are already settled in their base in Verviers after flying out there on Tuesday and play the first of their three games tomorrow afternoon when they face Albania.
Two more matches follow against Cyprus on Sunday and Belgium next Wednesday before the top two from the group of four progress into the Elite Qualifying Round, which will take place next year.
Blake’s team have played one game already this season, beating Slovakia in a friendly at Crewe Alexandra in September but this will offer a different proposition for them in a competitive environment.
“This is another challenge for them, with three games in five days,” said Blake.
“Every time I pick a squad, whether it’s for a friendly or a tournament, it’s a challenge for them and this is another.
“For example, for the new boys in the squad this year, we’ll see what they’re like on the road and how they can cope physically with the demands of tournament football, both on and off the field.
“So far, they have met those challenges but again, we’ll work closely and try and make it as easy as possible for them to adapt.”
England have reached the last eight of the U19s Championship in each of the last three years and having been involved in both the Final and semi-final in the last two seasons, the ambition is always to better that.
But first they have to overcome the three other teams in their group and Blake feels his players will have to face a variety of styles over the course of the next week.
“It’s a mixed bag of nations and style of opposition, so it won’t be easy,” he added. “It’s up to us and the lads to meet the test. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.
“They will come up against three different styles of play, which is what happens in competitions like this and we’ll see how they deal with it.”
It’s still very much early days in terms of the season and the competition though, so Blake is only focusing on the First Qualifying Round to begin with.
“We go into every tournament looking to win, but firstly, you’ve got to get the performances right and if you can get the performances right, nine times out of ten, you will get the right result,” he explained.
“That won’t change, but I want to see how they progress individually and collectively, and then we face the next challenge of making sure we qualify for the Elite Round.”Watch a video interview with Blake now, by clicking the video icon on the right of your screen.