Nicholas Veevers in Donetsk
Saturday, 01 August, 2009
Coach and captain speak ahead of Sunday's European U19 Championship Final.
The Final will be shown live on Eurosport at 2.30pm
Brian Eastick and his captain Jason Steele faced the press on Saturday, ahead of their European Championship final with Ukraine.
Taking place at the Olimpiyiskyi Stadium in Donetsk, the venue where the game will be played, they were joined by their Ukrainian counterparts in Head Coach Yuriy Kalitvintsev and captain Kyrylo Petrov to answer questions from local and international journalists.
It’s only just over a week since the two teams met in their Group A game at the Olimpiyskyi and that encounter ended all square in a 2-2 draw, so Eastick knows what his troops will be up against when Sunday arrives.
“I’ve seen the DVD of their semi-final and we think it’s going to be a very difficult game for us,” he said.
“Ukraine are a very good team and they could’ve beaten us 3-2 when we played them in the group stage. They had a very good chance in the last 10 minutes when we were physically very tired.
“I’d like to think that we have improved physically and in our fitness since then but we are under no illusions, we think they’re an excellent team and have some good players.”
A crowd of around 20,000 is expected for the game, with the host nation’s supporters eager to cheer their team on to victory and Eastick feels that can only help Kalitvintsev’s team.
“It will be a tough game for us and playing at home in front of a passionate crowd will be a big advantage for them,” he added.
“I think they will start the game as firm favourites.”
Having been part of Stuart Pearce’s staff for the recent Under-21 tournament in Sweden, Eastick knows how it feels to be on the end of a defeat in the final, so that is one thing he is keen to well and truly banish to the memory books.
“I know the feeling in the dressing room when you’ve lost a final and it’s not a pleasant feeling,” he explained.
“I sincerely hope that on Sunday we may have a different feeling, but finals are all about who plays well on the day.”
Goalkeeper Steele was part of the U17 team which reached the final of their European Championship two years ago only to lose a close game with Spain by a single goal and now he is looking to go one further.
“It would definitely be the proudest moment of my life, but not just for me but the whole team and staff as well,” said the Middlesbrough ace.
“It’s been a long team since any England team has won a major competition and especially as we’ve been together for a year and come through all of the qualifying stages together.
“It would mean a hell of a lot for us to come together and win it now and that’s our aim.”
As for Kalitvintsev, after seeing England score ten goals in their last two games, he knows that his side will be in for a test and is just hoping for a game worthy of the occasion.
“We always thought when we saw the semi-final that England would get to the final and it was a major factor in our win to play them in the final,” he said.
“I hope the final will be good and the football will be the true winner, but it will be quite difficult to beat this English team in the final.”
Sunday’s game will be shown live on Eurosport (2.30pm kick-off) whilst there will be a minute’s silence and the England players will wear black armbands out of respect for Sir Bobby Robson, who sadly passed away on Friday.