Stuart Pearce bemoans tough European Under-21 draw

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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce claimed England had been "lumped" with the worst possible draw after his side crashed out of the European Under-21 Championship with defeat to the Czech Republic last night.

Pearce's Young Lions saved their best performance of the competition in Denmark for last, but a nightmare end to the game saw them concede in the final minute and stoppage-time to lose 2-1.

The result, which followed draws against other Group B opponents Spain and Ukraine, cost them a semi-final spot.

"People don't realise the magnitude of the group we were put in," Pearce said.

"You've only got to look at the other group.

"A team's come out of that group having lost two matches. That tells you they might have lumped the stronger teams together.

"But that's tournament football."

England were disappointing in their opening two games, especially in a disappointing goalless draw with Ukraine, and have looked nothing like the number-one ranked team in Europe during the past week.

Last night's game will spell the end of some under-21 careers.

"A percentage of these players won't play again at this level," added Pearce, who is also Fabio Capello's assistant at senior level.

"I will wait until the dust settles to report to Fabio and see how these players came out of this tournament."

England were on course to go through when Danny Welbeck broke the deadlock with 14 minutes remaining but Jan Chramosta and Tomas Pekhart both came off the bench to turn the game on its head.

"Once you get your nose in front at that stage of the game, you hope to keep hold of it and see the game out," said Pearce.

"I wouldn't say we gave up. But we probably should have done better at the end.

"We have to take it on the chin, learn, and go on next season.

"I thought we played particularly well (last night), cut them open on several occasions, got the goal, which was big for us.

"But we didn't have the doggedness to see out the victory."

Much was made about the withdrawal of key players from Pearce's squad before the tournament, especially Jack Wilshere.

Pearce said: "At the moment, it has no relevance to me.

"My only concern is 22 people who are hurting in the dress room. We're hurting quite badly but we have to be humble and learn lessons."

Pearce, who has been assured the new two-year contract he has all but signed is still on the table, added: "I will learn the lessons. I will have a good look at it.

"We are the youngest squad here. I have 10 players who were with me today who can roll their sleeves up and go again next time. We have to take that hurt on."