We're in it to win it
Nicholas Veevers in Donetsk
Monday, 20 July, 2009
U19s Head Coach Brian Eastick outlines his ambitions for the Euros.
England v Switzerland
Group A, UEFA European U19 Championship Finals
5pm, Tuesday 21 July 2009 (3pm BST)
Metalurh Stadium, Donetsk
England U19 Head Coach Brian Eastick faced a press pack of over 30 reporters on Monday afternoon, as the clock ticks down towards the start of the European Championship finals on Tuesday.
The official UEFA pre-tournament press conference was held at the Donbass Palace Hotel in Donetsk with reporters and camera crews from all over Ukraine and beyond attending to hear the thoughts of both Eastick and his Swiss counterpart Claude Ryf ahead of the opening match at the Metalurh Stadium on Tuesday evening.
“All we are focusing on at the moment is Switzerland because we are playing them next,” said Eastick.
“We are expecting a very difficult game against Switzerland and that is foremost in our mind and it’s a very important game, as whoever wins will have a distinct advantage.
“We certainly aren’t arrogant enough to underestimate Switzerland in any way, as we have seen them play on a number of occasions and they have some very good players.
“It will be a very close game in my view.”
With hosts Ukraine and Slovenia making up Group A, the likes of France, Spain, Turkey and Serbia complete Group B and Eastick believes the calibre of teams in the tournament this year will make for an intriguing and competitive event.
“I think the objective of all eight teams here will be to try and win the competition,” he added.
“With the exception of Ukraine, all of the seven teams have come through qualifying tournaments and I think it’s an achievement in itself to reach the finals, so for all of the players in all of the teams, it will be a terrific experience for them.
“I think international football is different to club football, certainly for young players. My personal view is that it is a great experience for them to play against different countries, different styles of football and different tactics which can give you different problems.
“From an English perspective, we are expecting all of the teams here to give us different types of problems tactically and that in itself is going to be a very good experience for our players.”
This is England’s second successive trip to the U19 Euro finals and Eastick remembers an opening game defeat 12 months ago ultimately cost his team a semi-final place and this is something he is desperate to avoid this time around.
“In my experience, I think it’s very important without sounding negative to not lose your first game,” he explained.
“Last year in Czech Republic, we played the host nation in the first game and lost 2-0 and it made it very difficult then for us to qualify.
“So I think it’s fairly evident that all of the teams in this competition will be trying not to lose this first match and indeed trying to win it.
“If you can get off to a good start in this competition then you can get some momentum so I think the first game is very important.”
One thing that both Eastick and Ryf did agree on was how tough it could prove for the respective teams in the heat of Donetsk where temperatures have been in the late thirties since England's arrival on Friday.
With a 5pm kick-off, it will remain hard work for two teams not quite used to the conditions but it is something Eastick feels will become more comfortable for his teams with more training and preparation before the second and third games.
“The heat will be a big problem for both England and Switzerland,” he admitted.
“Perhaps me and Claude can make an agreement that we can play at a certain pace!
“I don’t envisage our first game to be played at the pace and tempo that we normally play at in England because of the heat and that is exactly why it is a fantastic experience for these players.
“If they are to go on and be top international players in the future, these are the type of circumstances that they will have to deal with if they are to play at the very highest level.
“That is why it is such a terrific experience for all of the players to be here.”