Smalling set for showdown
Wednesday, 01 September, 2010
Man United defender knows only victory in Portugal will do.
As England's Under-21s team landed in Portugal before their must-win Euro 2011 Qualifier, defender Chris Smalling said the players are excited about the challenge ahead.
Stuart Pearce's men have two important games in the next week and only maximum points will keep their hopes of qualification for next summer's Finals alive.
They meet the Portuguese in the northern town of Barcelos on Friday, before returning home to play their last Group Nine match against Lithuania in Colchester on Tuesday afternoon.
The Manchester United defender understands how important the two games are and is hoping he can help the Three Lions bring a win back home to set up an exciting climax in Essex next week.
And, after a long break over the close-season following March's qualifying defeat to Greece, a good performance and victory over Uzbekistan last month has restored the team's confidence as they aim for the play-offs.
"We met up Monday after a busy weekend with our clubs and we've had a training session every morning this week," Smalling told TheFA.com. "All the boys were lively and we're just looking forward to the game on Friday night.
"Everybody knows the importance of these two games in terms of qualification, so we’re very focused on the job.
"We all had a long break from the Under-21s, so it was important we got together last month for the game against Uzbekistan. It was only a few days but it will help us ahead of the games this week and also is good for the team spirit.
"Before that game the Gaffer said he wanted us to pass the ball around and play to our strengths, and I think that’s what we did. We looked comfortable on the ball and it was down to us to go at Uzbekistan and try to create chances as we knew they’d come to defend.
"We did that well, be broke them down and got a couple of goals and a clean sheet, so it was a nice way to start the new season and prepare for the two Qualifiers."
The 20-year-old who joined United from Fulham in the summer is keen for the players to not get overawed by the job in hand and stay focused on two wins, and he believes the players are responding well.
And having featured in both previous encounters last November with this week's opponents - a 1-0 win over Portugal at Wembley and a 0-0 draw in Vilnius against the Lithuanians - Smalling is confident they can get what is required.
"It can get hyped-up and sometimes players don’t produce their best, but we’re just focused on getting the result out in Portugal first and foremost.
He added: "We know what they’ll be like and are confident we can win the game. It’s going to be a tough task but if we can get the victory we need we can come back home and finish the job off in Colchester next week."