Pearce: 'We're getting stronger'
by Jamie Bradbury in Mons
Monday, 14 November, 2011
Young Lions boss expects a tough match-up in Belgium.
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Stuart Pearce insists he is not taking his team’s position at the top of the group for granted as they go up against third-placed Belgium in Mons on Monday night.
The Three Lions have earned themselves a five point lead in the table with a 100 per cent record at the mid-way stage of qualifying while the Belgians have collected five points in total from their four outings, but Pearce expects a difficult encounter when the teams go head to head.
The former England defender believes his young charges will need to be at their best as they look to follow up Thursday’s 5-0 win over Iceland in Colchester, while their opponents try to stay in contention in qualifying.
“I think Belgium have got the ability to play as well as any team in this group, that’s my opinion on what I have seen,” said Pearce. “They’ve had highs and lows in their performances, but playing against England they’ll be fully focussed.
“We’ve put ourselves in a situation now that if we beat them tomorrow night we probably put them out of the competition with regard to the points they can achieve and, historically, the amount of points you need to get out of the group. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position, but we know full well they have to come out and try and win the game against us.
“It’ll be an interesting game and we’re getting stronger and stronger as a group as time’s gone on. I think we’re beyond my expectations of how tight we would be collectively.”
Pearce will be able to select his starting line-up from his full 22-man squad with everyone fit and raring to go. Newcastle striker Sammy Ameobi did miss the second half of training on Sunday, but the Coach expects him to be available. He also has Merseyside duo Ross Barkley and Jon Flanagan back in the frame after they played 90 minutes in the U19s 1-0 win over Denmark in Brighton on Thursday.
“Everyone is fully fit that is here and the slight niggles from the last game seem to have solved themselves. Young Sammy Ameobi pulled out of training with a slight bug, but we think he’ll be fine for the game.
“Ross Barkley and Jon Flanagan joined us last Thursday evening after the U19s game. They went and had 90 minutes down at Brighton, and did well. I decided they weren’t going to start on Thursday [for the Under-21s] and I think it is important, at their age, they’re playing football.
“I could have kept them with me and been selfish about it, but for their long-term development they’re better off going and playing. That way it’s better for the U19s and better for all of us. We’ve got them back fully fit and vying for a place against Belgium.”
The game kicks off at 7.45pm (GMT) and will be live on ESPN