Stuart Pearce's England side have reached their fourth straight finals and are looking for a first title since 1984. After starting their qualification campaign in relentless fashion – four straight victories, scoring 16 goals and conceding just one – they suffered a setback against Belgium in November 2011, going down 2-1 in Mons. However, they got back on track with a 4-0 win against the same opponents in their next game and did not drop another point on the way to the play-offs, where two 1-0 triumphs against Serbia yielded a place in Israel.
Jordan Henderson proved to be a mainstay of the side in qualifying. The midfielder did not miss a game while centre-back Craig Dawson was a surprising attacking weapon and finished as top scorer with five goals. The campaign also allowed the emergence of several promising talents, including Paul Ince's son, Thomas, and recent Manchester United FC recruit Wilfried Zaha. Jack Butland has been an assured presence in between the posts for England.
Pearce's team reached the final in Sweden in 2009 only to be overpowered by a very impressive Germany side before failing to get out of the group stage in Denmark the summer before last. The England manager was happy with the way his side came through the qualifying process. "I am still very proud from a footballing point of view as to how the team did," he said. "For us to qualify, we have put in a lot of hard work."
The side appear contenders if their 2013 friendlies are any indication, having scored 11 without reply while recording victories against Sweden, Romania and Austria.
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