City defender Onuoha to miss England Under 21 opener against Finland
15 June 2009 02:18
Nedum Onuoha is struggling to be fit for England's opening game of the European Under 21 Championship against Finland on Monday.
Onuoha, 22, had been expected to captain the team in the absence of
the injured Steven Taylor, but is suffering from a groin strain.
He trained on Sunday but manager Stuart Pearce is reluctant to take any risks with the Manchester City defender, with tough group games against Spain and Germany to follow.
Pearce has stressed the importance of a good start against the Finns, who topped Scotland's qualification group.
Without Onuoha, Pearce may be tempted to switch his City team-mate Micah Richards from right back into central defence, with Mark Noble taking the captain's armband.
'We have to hit the ground running here,' said Pearce.
'We are well aware we only have three games and if you fail to win the first two you are on the back foot.
'You only have to look back over history to see that in the last nine championships across all age groups, the eventual winners have all won their first game.
'Winning that first game gives you confidence.
'There's a bit of nervous tension I'd be worried if there wasn't but one thing that gives me confidence is the attitude of these boys in the training camp and the focus they show off the pitch.
'It's probably better than any squad I've been involved with.
'We have a lot of talent and experience but we will never underestimate any team. Finland are organised and resilient.
'I'm sure they're looking forward to their first major championship.'