Pearce predicts tough campaign

04 February 2009 06:30
England Under-21's coach Stuart Pearce insists reputations will count for nothing when qualifying for the 2011 Euro Championships begins.Pearce's youngsters were drawn against Portugal, Greece, FYR Macedonia and Lithuania in their bid to reach the finals in Denmark.The former Manchester City boss admits all teams at that level are an unknown quantity, although the Portuguese, potentially England's biggest rivals in Group Nine, should be more familiar than others after they were also faced in qualifying for this summer's finals in Sweden.England took four points off Portugal on that occasion as they went through to the play-offs, where they narrowly beat Wales, without suffering defeat."It's the mark of the competition that all 53 countries in Europe have entered and it's difficult to see an easy group," Pearce said."We know that this is one of the toughest competitions to qualify for with a play-off even if you win your group."We've been drawn in the same group as Portugal again and they are historically very strong at under-21 and youth level. Greece had a good campaign last time and we've got two improving nations in Macedonia and Lithuania."The most difficult thing is that you can never be sure of the strength of under-21 teams at this stage. Reputations don't count for much at this age."We are completely focused on this summer's tournament in Sweden but this gives us something to look forward to for the next two seasons."England's campaign begins with a trip to Macedonia on September 4, followed by a daunting match in Greece four days later.

Source: Eurosport