England U21 v Finland U21 preview
England Under-21s begin their quest to become European Champions when they face Finland in Halmstad.
By Richard Bailey
Last Updated: 16/06/09 9:06am
England Under-21s begin their quest to become European Champions on Monday when they face outsiders Finland in Halmstad.
Stuart Pearce's young charges are determined to banish memories of their semi-final shootout defeat to hosts Holland in the 2007 tournament, although Pearce believes the line-up in Sweden makes it the toughest Under-21 competition to date.
The Three Lions know that three points against Finland are a must with big hitters Spain and Germany making up their group.
Pearce has a whole host of Premier League experience at his disposal despite the squad already suffering a number of high-profile casualties.
Captain Steven Taylor, Tom Huddlestone, Jamie O'Hara, David Wheater and Matt Derbyshire will all miss the tournament through injury but better news for the young Lions is that the whole squad trained ahead of the game on Monday.
Injury doubts Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha both look to have shaken off their respective knocks and should start against Finland.
Theo Walcott and James Milner both trained well after they joined up with the squad following their involvement with the senior squad for the games against Kazakhstan and Andorra last week.
Despite Finland competing in their first ever Under-21 finals Pearce is expecting a tough test on Monday.
"You can't underestimate anybody in international football, it's impossible now," Pearce told the FA website.
"I've seen enough games of the Finnish side - six matches - to study them exactly how we would any other nation in Europe.
"We're totally respectful of any team we play. I don't see any underdogs here. Any one of these eight teams can win this tournament.
"Whoever you play on any day you need to be at your out-and-out best to be competitive and if you're not you'll get beaten, simple as that."
Pearce also singled out Finland captain Tim Sparv as the man to watch.
The 22-year-old spent three years at Southampton without ever playing a single game but has notched four goals in 15 appearances for the Under-21s from central midfield.