Pearce upbeat after daunting draw

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England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce remains optimistic about his side's chances at next summer's European Championships after being given a tough draw for the finals in Sweden.

Pearce's youngsters will face traditional rivals Germany, with Spain and Finland completing Group B and the top two reaching the semi-finals.

"I believe we'll be in a better position this time around than we were going into Holland in 2007," said Pearce. "Our aim has been to win it and between now and then there is a lot of football to be played, so we must use that to improve as a squad and individually."

England will be encouraged by defeating Germany in a play-off over two legs to reach the 2007 finals, where they reached the last four before getting beaten by hosts Holland after a marathon penalty shoot-out.

They faced Spain early in Pearce's reign as Under-21 coach, with David Nugent and Leroy Lita scoring to secure a draw after falling 2-0 behind.

Pearce's side have not been beaten since the last tournament - their unbeaten record in 90 minutes stretches further back - and he is still pushing for Theo Walcott and other eligible players to travel to Sweden, despite establishing themselves in the seniors.

"England and all the teams - as well as the tournament itself - need the best young players in Europe to be here in Sweden," he said after Wednesday's draw in Gothenburg.

"To have an opportunity of winning this tournament you need to have your best players here.

"Whoever plays for England in this tournament, if we get to the World Cup in 2010 and on into the future, the experience will be invaluable to them."

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Stuart Pearce
David Nugent
Leroy Lita
David Nugent
Theo Walcott

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