Pearce fully focused on qualification

Stuart Pearce is keeping a close eye on all the possible permutations facing England in anticipation of his Under-21 side reaching the European Championship play-offs.

Look who dropped by to watch the match...

England ensured their place in next month's play-offs with Thursday's 2-0 victory in Azerbaijan but the group - and in theory a more favourable draw in Geneva on Friday as one of the seeded teams - was up for grabs against Norway at Chesterfield's Proact Stadium on Monday night.

Pearce's side won it courtesy of Connor Wickham's first goal for the Under-21s two minutes before half-time but the Young Lions laboured to victory in north east Derbyshire.

Norway also progressed as one of the four best runners-up from the 10 groups.

The identity of England's play-off opponents became clearer after UEFA confirmed the seedings for Friday's draw in Nyon on Tuesday.

The Young Lions will face one of Switzerland, Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden, Russia and Serbia, the latter trio having won their groups but denied a seeding by virtue of their UEFA co-efficient.

England therefore avoid the nightmare draw of one of Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland, France or Czech Republic, a prospect they would have faced had they lost on Monday.

Speaking before those seedings were announced, Pearce said: "I would like to say that we haven't looked at that yet but I've studied those league tables on a daily basis for the last two seasons.

"Before [the Norway game] we knew exactly all the possible outcomes for us and the teams we could get.

"I wouldn't have wanted Norway to come out of the group with us if I'm being honest as that would have given us more of a chance of getting a runner-up - not that that particularly makes it easier for you as two years ago all four runners-up went to the finals having beaten group winners.

"So there is a word of caution there as there are plenty of things that can go against you - players' fitness and availability and so on.

"All the play-off fixtures will be tight affairs as everyone wants to be at those finals and we have two years' work rapped up in eight days in October now."

Wickham took his goal well. The Sunderland striker latched onto a defensive mistake and, bearing down on goal, confidently tucked away his chance from close-range.

It was Wickham's first goal since October last year and when asked if the 19-year-old is still capable of fulfilling his potential following his his £8million move from Ipswich last summer, Pearce said: "Of course.

"It is important that someone in my position doesn't elevate these players to a God-like status too soon, and certainly not write them off too soon.

"We have a tendency in this country to do so, but an even ship and a steady progression would be more beneficial.

"Connor is still only 19, but sometimes because of the stature of the lad - in fact a lot of the players - the bottom line is that they are all Under-21s."



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