Hope and disappointment: How England Under-21s have fared during the tenure of Stuart Pearce

 

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Stuart Pearce's record as manager of England Under-21s is actually quite impressive, having won 39 of his 66 games in charge, drawn 16 and lost just 11. But is is England's propensity for not coming through in big games that has caused problems.

Pearce was initially given the given the job as manager of the Under-21s in February 2007 in conjunction with his job at Manchester City, before taking over fully in the summer. Having started with two draws against Spain and Italy, his side put Slovakia to the sword 5-0 as part of their friendly preparations for the European Championships in Holland that summer. The goalscorers included Leroy Lita and Tom Huddlestone.

During that summer's Championships, England drew the first two games, including throwing a two goal-lead away against Italy. A 2-0 win over Serbia, with goals from Lita and Matt Derbyshire, show them face hosts Holland in the semi-finals.

Having taken the lead through Lita, and looking to qualify for the Final for the first time since 1984, Holland equalised in the 89th minute eventually winning a dramatic penalty shoot-out 13-12.

The disappointment proved a catalyst for qualification for the 2009 European Championships in Sweden. The team won seven and drew one of their first eight qualifying games, conceding only once, against Portugal, and scoring 17 goals in the process to ensure a play-off spot. The team secured qualification  with a 5-4 aggregate win over Wales, winning the away leg 3-2 and then drawing 2-2 at home, having played 25 minutes with 10 men.

At the tournament in Sweden, the team overcame a sending off after 30 mins to win their opening game against Finland. A win over a Spain and a draw against Germany set up a semi-final against Sweden. Having gone 3-0 up, England needed penalties to see off Sweden after a 3-3 draw - prevailing 5-4 on spot-kicks

However a 4-0 loss to Germany in the final, with Mesut Özil impressing, put paid to thoughts of glory.

Another solid qualifying campaign for the 2011 tournament with six wins, three draws and only one loss, to Greece, show the team heading for the tournament in Denmark. However pre-Championship friendly losses to Italy and Iceland, sandwiching a 4-0 win over Denmark, showed that England were not in great form.

Two draws against Spain and Ukraine put the pressure on England to win their last group game. A place in the semi-finals looked on when Danny Welbeck scored against the Czech Republic with 14 minutes remaining. However, two goals by the Czechs in the last three minutes knocked England out.

There was a familiar pattern to qualification for the 2013 European Championship in Israel - with England winning eight out of nine games and only losing to Belgium. Unlike 2011, four straight wins in internationals before the tournament, creating a nine-game winning streak, boded well.

But, England stumbled when it mattered again losing their opening two games to leave just a match against the hosts on Tuesday, possibly Stuart Pearce's last game, before flying home.     

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