Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Given a Tough Euro Draw

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Given a Tough Euro Draw

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mike McGrath

England Under-21s will face their Republic of Ireland counterparts in a tough qualifying campaign for the 2009 European Championships.

Both teams were drawn in Group Three, along with Portugal, Bulgaria and Montenegro, following the draw in Stockholm yesterday.

It was the first time Montenegro featured in a draw, after the country was accepted as a member association at the Uefa congress in Germany last month.

The 10 group winners and four best second-placed countries will reach the play-offs to join hosts Sweden in the finals tournament.

England reached this summer's finals under the guidance of Peter Taylor, who stood down to concentrate on club matters with Crystal Palace.

Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce will take charge of the side for the tournament in Holland this June, but there is hope of a full-time appointment for the new qualifying campaign.

England coach Steve McClaren has wanted a full-time man for the under-21s since taking over from Sven-Goran Eriksson but no appointment was made and Taylor was in charge on a match-by-match basis for the 2007 campaign.

If a full-time coach is found, he will lose players such as skipper Nigel Reo-Coker from the previous qualifying campaign but Theo Walcott would still be eligible.

Starting from this summer, the tournament will be held in 'odd' numbered years to fall between major senior tournaments, which meant the current qualifying campaign was somewhat shortened.

England's path to the finals appears to be much tougher this time. Portugal were the top-seeded team in England's group and trips to Bulgaria and Montenegro could be tricky, while there is the intensity of a clash against nearby Republic of Ireland.

Eire manager Don Givens said he could not have picked a tougher assignment.

"This is as difficult a group as they come," he said. "Top seeds in the group, Portugal, have a tremendous track record at under-age level ( and Bulgaria are traditionally strong. …

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