England have form to end top of group

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David Platt, the England Under-21 coach is backing his side to come out on top in their European Championship showdown with Greece and qualify for the last 16 as group winners.

England will meet Greece at Ewood Park on 5 October in the knowledge that victory would take them above their opponents into pole position.

A hat-trick from Francis Jeffers and goals from Jonathan Greening and Jermain Defoe helped England account for Albania 5-0 at the Riverside on Tuesday and keep the pressure on the Greeks, who lead the table by two points.

"I've always been confident that we could complete the job," said Platt, who took over from Howard Wilkinson in the summer. "I have said it was in our own hands if we won our three remaining games when I took over and I don't see any difference now.

"It would be a shame if we can not carry things through but I think there is a belief in the squad that they can do it and the performances have certainly been very encouraging for different reasons.

"In the friendly against Holland we put in a very fluent performance, and then against Germany the mental strength and tactical nous showed through and then there was the professionalism against the Albanians.

"They put plenty of people behind the ball but we kept the tempo up and after 65 to 70 minutes they started to tire and then the gaps appeared and we exploited them."

Jeffers' treble took his Under-21 goal tally to seven in nine games while Defoe's goal took his total to five in the last four internationals. Platt said: "I thought we would need to be cute around the penalty area and they are both very bright players. If you look at the goals, Defoe created two for Jeffers while Jeffers then created one for Defoe.

"They can both finish. They are goalscorers and that showed with the composure when they put the ball away. It's hardly surprising because they have got plenty of ability and they've done it not just at Under-21 level but also for their clubs."

Jeffers praised his side for the patience they showed before finally finishing off the Albanians with four goals in the second half after his first effort had divided the sides at the interval. He said: "We knew they were going to sit back and try their level best to keep the score down. But the lads were very patient. The gaffer told us Albania had adopted exactly the same approach against the Germans.

"Germany put eight goals past them but it took them nearly 40 minutes to break them down for the first time and this game was very similar. We had a great result against Germany on Friday which put matters in our own hands but we knew it would mean nothing if we didn't get a victory against Albania and we've achieved that.

"We will be really up for the game against Greece. I think the whole of England has enjoyed the success of the last few days at senior and Under-21 level."

The Albanians struggled to cope with the runs of Luke Chadwick and the artistry in midfield of Scott Parker.

Jeffers opened the scoring after 16 minutes after good play by Defoe but England tended to over-elaborate for the remainder of the first half. That changed in the second period as they made greater use of the flanks and Jeffers side-footed home his second goal after a perfect cross from Defoe.

Defoe, Greening and then Jeffers again completed the rout to set up the showdown in Blackburn next month.

Platt has also told his youngsters not to give up hope of emulating the likes of Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard because of the considerable depth of young talent already established in the senior squad.

Sven Goran Eriksson has indicated that his current pool of players, many of whom are only in their early to mid-20s, could be together for "the next five to seven years". But Platt has told his current crop of starlets that their opportunity will still come if they are ruthless and determined enough to make the breakthrough.

"At the end of the day you have to earn a place," Platt said. "There is competition in my squad and if you want to operate at the top level players have got to be ruthless, hard with themselves and the people around them. Doors will inevitably open during careers. No one wishes an injury on someone but eventually someone is going to get injured and that's when a door opens. I'm testament to that.

"Bryan Robson came back from the 1990 World Cup and things moved on. I would not have played in any of those games in 1990 if Robbo had been fit. Doors will open and these lads have to say 'I'm going to continue to perform at Under-21 and club level and my career will escalate from there.'

"Yes, there are players in front of them in the senior squad that are going to be there for a long, long time – the Steven Gerrards and the Michael Owens etc.

"But things happen and the positive thing is that you have got a coach in place in Mr Eriksson who is looking to youth, who is interested in it and knows what is coming through the ranks."

Platt is calling for an ebb in the euphoria surrounding the senior squad after their demolition of Germany in Munich and, to a lesser extent, the Under-21s after their win in Freiburg 24 hours earlier. The former England captain said: "I think we should temper it. What's happened is the kind of thing that happened in the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96.

"Yes, it was a great result in Munich and ours was a great result in Freiburg, but you've got to go and do the same sort of thing again. The seniors have got to do it against Greece next month in the same way as we have to in our final game.

"We should qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals. There is a great belief in the squad that they can go there and have a successful tournament. But tournament football is completely different. You are coming up against very good sides as well and, like I said, the euphoria should be tempered a little."

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