Confidence is coursing through John Peacock's England side after they began their UEFA European Under-17 Championship campaign in Liechtenstein on Tuesday with a 3-1 win against the Czech Republic.
England's 100% qualifying record prompted Czech coach Jiří Štol to proclaim their opening Group B opponents as tournament favourites and such assuredness now seems to have hit home with England's players. The self-proclaimed underdogs may have taken a seventh-minute lead at the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz but England, who hit the net 22 times en route to Liechtenstein, puffed out their chests and delivered a potentially telling sign of intent.
"We were OK at the beginning but we got better and better and it's a great result against the Czech Republic," Ross Barkley, scorer of his side's equaliser, told UEFA.com. "That's definitely my best and most important goal so far. [Peacock] said at half-time that we could do miles better and told us to lift our game, which we did in the second half. There is miles more to come from this team – I'm sure we can go all the way."
Next up for the 2007 runners-up are Greece on Friday, followed by the closing game of the section against Turkey on Monday. Barkley, though, already has his sights set further down the line. Former champions Portugal, Switzerland, France and Spain lie in wait from Group A and Barkley views the latter, 2-1 victors against Guy Ferrier's side and the most decorated outfit in the tournament's history, as England's biggest threat to lifting the trophy on 30 May.
"We watched Spain and France, and Spain looked class," said the Everton midfielder. "I'd expect us or them to win it.
There is lots of confidence in the dressing room now because we haven't been beaten in six qualifiers and then we've won again today – we're unbeaten so there is plenty of confidence."
*Arsenal FC midfielder Chuks Aneke has withdrawn from the squad through injury and has been replaced by West Bromwich Albion FC forward Saido Berahino, who appeared as a substitute in the 5-0 elite round defeat of Malta, his eighth U17 cap.
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