England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce is confident he has the players to mount a successful campaign at this summer's European Championships in Denmark.
England's final friendly before Pearce picks his 23-man squad for the tournament ended in a 2-1 defeat by fellow qualifiers Iceland at Preston's Deepdale ground on Monday night. The manager chose to rest most of the players who had starred in a 4-0 victory over Denmark last Thursday and, although Nathan Delfouneso gave the hosts an early lead, they ultimately paid the price.
"We've got a pool of 30-odd players that I've got to whittle down to 23, so for the last six weeks of the season I'll do as many miles as I can to see as many performances from young players as I possibly can," said Pearce. "And at the end of that I've got to pick a squad that hopefully will be competitive and go and have a tilt at trying to win the finals."
Pearce was encouraged by what he saw and singled out Aston Villa winger Marc Albrighton as a player who had grabbed his chance to impress.
He said: "There's always a good spirit within our camp, a never-say-die attitude, and we were desperate to try to claw the game back.
"I thought Marc Albrighton played extremely well and across the board everyone's given me something to think about."
Pearce guided the under-21s to the final of the same tournament two years ago before a heavy defeat by Germany took some of the gloss off their achievement.
He will have one more friendly, a clash with Norway at Southampton on June 5, to fine-tune his squad ahead of their first group match against Spain a week later.
With Ukraine and Czech Republic also in their group, England will have their work cut out to repeat their success of four years ago, and Pearce has already declared his intention to pick the likes of Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll despite their promotion to the senior team.
Monday's game also gave the former England left-back a glimpse into the future, with 17-year-old Connor Wickham making his full debut up front and Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran, 18, putting in another composed performance.
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