Pearce aware of Greek danger
Jamie Bradbury in Nauplia
Monday, 07 September, 2009
The Under-21s Coach expects a tough challenge against Greece on Tuesday
Click on the image on the right to view a gallery of pictures from training...
England’s Under-21s were back on the training pitch on Monday ahead of their 2011 UEFA European Championship Qualifier with Greece, and all 20 members of the squad were involved.
And after temperatures in Nauplia, the team’s base for the second part of this get together, were nearly hitting the 30 degree mark on Sunday, the clouds and rain that have arrived at the start of the week could make the game a lot less tricky for the Three Lions.
It was good news for Coach Stuart Pearce who knows that Tuesday’s Group Nine meeting with Greece will be one of the toughest hurdles in qualifying with a place at the Finals in Denmark the ultimate aim.
Their hosts top the table having already played two games as their campaign started back in June with victories over Macedonia and Lithuania, but Pearce will hope his players can seal the three points to take them level at the summit.
“Greece may be slightly ahead of us at the moment because they have been with their young crop of players sooner than we have, due to our involvement in the tournament in the summer,” explained Pearce.
“I’m still getting to know my players and they are getting to know me as well, and that is quite important.
“We’re into qualifiers now and it is an important phase. I think we have a good crop of players, but the more we are together I think the more I will find out about them.”
And Pearce had nothing but praise for his opponents who have been leading the way in more ways than one on the pitch, with their senior side beating the odds to lift the European Championship five years ago.
“Greece really put themselves on the map at the European Championship in 2004, where a team collective and a strong unit, more so than the individuals, came out and achieved. That was a great statement, not just for Greek football, but for football in general.
“It doesn’t have to be the big sides the big names, that pick trophies up. I think that was a great example for all of us.
“I think Greek football is getting stronger and stronger, as is world football, and I don’t think there are any easy internationals anywhere in the world, at Under-21 level or senior level, which is fantastic.”
After their 2-1 win against Macedonia on Friday, which got their campaign off to a good start, Pearce knows that the team will have to perform better if they are to add to the three points on Tuesday.
In a tough group where any team could take the top spot, and with it an automatic place in the play-offs for the Finals, Pearce knows just how important picking up results in every game will be.
“The win against Macedonia was perhaps fortunate, as we didn’t play particularly well,” he said.
“We feel as though we must play better to get a good result against Greece. We know we are going to be in a difficult match on Tuesday as we have a very tight group. Whoever qualifies out of this group is going to be pushed to the extreme.
“Portugal will be watching with interest for sure and Greece are in a strong position with six-out-of-six points, knowing they can extend the gap on Tuesday. I think it will be a very good game and with not much to choose between the sides.”
England will meet their hosts Greece on Tuesday evening at the Asteras Tripolis Stadium, home to Greek Super League side PAE Asteras Tripolis, kick off 5.00pm BST.
Follow the team throughout the campaign on TheFA.com, or become an official fan on Facebook.