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International Match

Pearce wary of tricky group

England boss Stuart Pearce is not expecting an easy ride at next summer's UEFA U21 Championship finals.

Last Updated: 29/11/12 at 10:10 Post Comment

Stuart Pearce: Under-21 boss has high hopes for England in Israel next year

Stuart Pearce: Under-21 boss has high hopes for England in Israel next year

The Young Lions were arguably handed the best possible draw on Wednesday in Group A after being paired with hosts Israel, Norway and Italy, avoiding defending champions Spain, Germany, Russia and Holland.

There be some relief in the England camp to have swerved a Spain team that helped knock them out of the 2011 tournament and the Germany side who crushed England in the 2009 final.

England also lost out to the Dutch two years earlier in a heart-breaking semi-final penalty shoot-out.

But head coach Pearce remains wary and said: "We are in with the hosts and they'll be backed by some great home support.

"Norway, we know all about and there was very little between us in qualifying.

"Italy are technically very difficult to break down and we have experience of them in the past. On paper, it might look easy, but it never works that way."

England beat Norway to top spot in qualifying Group 8, while Italy finished top of Group 7 before beating Sweden in the play-offs.

Israel are the expected opponents for England's opener, before they face Italy and the Norwegians.

"We are coming to Israel to win it," Pearce added. "During my time, we have lost a semi-final on penalties, lost a final and gone out in the group stages.

"We have experienced most everything in this competition, except winning it. That was our target at the start of the qualification campaign and we are aware of what's in front of us, but we want to win it.

"For a lot of the young players lucky enough to experience these finals, it will prove to be an invaluable time in Israel, not least with a World Cup on the horizon in Brazil.

"We have had a good period here in Israel and have a good idea of hotels and training bases now. This will be confirmed as soon as UEFA decide on the match schedule."

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