Sturridge sets his sights
Jamie Bradbury in Tripoli
Monday, 07 September, 2009
Daniel Sturridge eyes 'ultimate success' with Under-21s.
Daniel Sturridge says that England’s team spirit is building by the day, as they prepare for their second UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier in Greece.
Although the Three Lions still have ten players available at this level from the 2009 Finals in Sweden, Chelsea’s summer signing from Manchester City is one of a fresh crop to come into Stuart Pearce’s new-look side. As they spend more time as a group during get-togethers, he says the players can learn more about each other, both on and off the pitch.
The 20-year-old came off the bench to make his Under-21 debut in Holland last month, but wore the number nine shirt and played the full 90 minutes in Macedonia on Friday afternoon.
Goals from Freddie Sears and a Lee Cattermole penalty helped England come from a goal down at half time to get their Group Nine qualifiers off to a positive start and Sturridge believes that lessons learned in the tough Macedonia conditions will benefit the side when the face group leaders Greece on Tuesday evening.
“It went pretty well, we got the win which was the main thing,” reflected the striker. “It was a very hard game for us; the heat and the pitch were very crucial in the game. We didn't want to make excuses because we're professionals, we've been playing football for a long time and you have to deal with the circumstances.
“In the end I think we dealt with them really well and showed great character to win the game. Playing away from home, with them having all their fans there, it was good for us to get the win. We worked very hard in the second half and have been training well so I think we deserved the win.
“The lads did really well when they came on, Jack won the penalty and Fred scored a goal, so it was two great substitutions by the manager, they made an impact.
“We changed formation at half time, which helped us a lot. We were all over them in the second half, we dominated, took it to them and got the win.”
The striker continued: “It's also good to get a game under your belt, you want to try and play a full game and show everyone what you can do as a player and, hopefully, if I play the next game I can show everyone what I can do.
“It's the biggest thing to play for your country, it's a huge honour. It's been really good for me to play and show what I can do for my country and hopefully in years to come I can play for the full squad as well.”
Now though, Sturridge and England are fully focused on their next challenge, a meeting with the Greeks in Tripoli on Tuesday night.
Greece currently top the group after wins over Macedonia and Lithuania and the former England U19 player believes the match will be a different prospect to Macedonia, but the team are determined to return home with a maximum six points from the trip.
“I expect them to work very hard, they'll be good technically, as the Greeks are always good on the ball, they'll be a strong unit and it'll be a bigger challenge from Macedonia. But the Macedonian game taught us as a team that we have to show character, we can't make little mistakes and we have to be on the ball at all times.
“We're playing away in Greece, hopefully we can be a strong bunch of lads and be able to put a performance on.
“It'll be the ultimate success for us, coming here with the heat and everything we're not used to, coming from England. Over here it's been a minimum of 28 degrees and we're not used to that. We don't want to make any excuses, but if we come out of this with six points, all the team will be delighted, so hopefully we can achieve that.”
He added: “We've got a great squad here, there's a lot of players that are playing for their clubs in the Premier League and also there's players playing in the Championship, it's good to be part of things here.
“It's good to train daily with the lads and get to know how people play and to know what people do on the ball so you can sometimes base your game around them. It's about being part of a team and I think the ten days we're spending together will hopefully put us in good stead for winning our future games and help get ourselves to the Championship.”
England will meet their hosts Greece on Tuesday evening in the town of Tripoli, 30km west, and will play at the Asteras Tripolis Stadium, home to Greek Super League side PAE Asteras Tripolis.
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