Pearce makes youngsters a '50-50' chance as his own odds shorten

The odds about Stuart Pearce succeeding Fabio Capello as the England manager shortened yesterday to 5-1 in the wake of the Under-21 side's 2-1 win over Romania in the first leg of their European Championship play-off on Friday.

Should he manage to shepherd his side through this afternoon's second leg in the Municipal Stadium in the Romanian town of Botosani, then his odds are likely to fall further, as his stock rises yet higher.

Chris Smalling's 83rd-minute winner gave England a narrow aggregate lead to take into today's return leg, a game in which they will have to do without midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has been promoted to the full England squad, and winger Marc Albrighton, who has returned to Aston Villa after suffering a minor groin problem during the first leg.

Pearce acknowledges today's contest is a genuine challenge. "Romania won their group, we only qualified as runners-up to Greece in our group. Romania are the favourites over two legs to win the tie," he said.

"They have conceded very few goals during qualification and we are very respectful of Romania. Whichever side gets to the finals in the summer will have worked very hard to get there. I think the tie is still 50/50 and in the balance."

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