VIDEO: Artificial Intelligence
by Jamie Bradbury in Drammen
Sunday, 09 October, 2011
Stuart Pearce prepares his team for first game on 4G pitch.
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England Under-21s trained in Norway for the first time on Saturday as they build-up for their second Euro 2013 Qualifier in four days.
And it'll be another first for Stuart Pearce's side as they face the Norwegians at on the 4G artificial pitch at the Marienlyst Stadium in Drammen, home of Norwegian Premier League outfit Stromsgodset.
Saturday's session gave the team a chance to test the pitch and have a run-out following Thursday 3-0 victory over Iceland. While Pearce was pleased with the result in Reykjavik, he feels his side are still growing and hopes they can step on further with one of Group 8's toughest encounters on Monday night.
"There were many good things, but there were also one or two things we need to brush up on, but it's coming together," he told FATV during training. "It was only our third game together as a group, we're improving as we go. It was another victory, which was the important thing and another clean sheet."
"It's our first time on [the 4G], we've trained on it today, we'll train on it tomorrow, and then it's obviously the game. So by the time it comes round we'll be used to it.
"Usually [teams] only let you come on a grass pitch for an hour the night before a fixture, but for this one we've had the opportunity to have two good sessions on this. We've changed our training slightly to make sure we get plenty of passing in to get an understanding of how the ball moves before we go into the game."
Having seen three players withdraw from the squad with injuries picked up in the game in Iceland, Pearce says that training will give everyone a chance to impress with places available in the starting line-up.
"We pick a squad and I'm never afraid to put anyone in," he continued. "There's no doubt in my mind that in the first game players' performances in training have got them in the team. If there's an either-or situation I go with my gut feeling, and that'll apply again.
"What I see in training over the next two sessions might influence my team selection. I've got a couple of places up for grabs, so whoever catches my eye might get the nod."
Pearce is expecting a stern test from a Norway side who only sit behind England in the group on goal difference having also won their two opening games. The Under-21s last played the Norwegians in a friendly prior to Euro 2011, winning 2-0 in Southampton, and their last trip to the Scandinavian nation was two years prior to that as they run out comfortable 5-0 winners on a freezing and snowy night in Sandefjord.
However, Pearce believes that this will be his toughest meeting with Norway yet.
"This isn't the Norway side of the last time we came here and it's not even the Norway side we played prior to the Championship," he said. "They have some very good players and it'll be a tough test for us.
"They've won both of their games on the road so far ithe group so arguably they can say they are the best in the group. But we know that if we can get a good result he it'll put us in a strong position.
"It's very unforgiving this group and they are on home soil and will want to win it to back up two victories on the road. Its a tough game for us."
For tickets for England's next home game against Iceland at Colchester United on 10 November, click here for ticket details.