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The England manager Stuart Pearce knows improvement is needed from his team if they are to go the distance in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship despite defeating Finland 2-1 in their Group B opener. Lee Cattermole and Micah Richards scored for England, who were reduced to ten men when Michael Mancienne was sent off for an infringement that led to Tim Sparv equalising from the penalty spot. Even if disappointment was the overriding emotion, Finland coach Markku Kanerva was still proud of the "courage and fighting spirit" the tournament debutants showed.
Stuart Pearce, England coach
The way we played was certainly not good enough to win this tournament. We gave ourselves a mountain to climb but still felt at half-time we could win the game, let alone take a point. The players showed a great deal of character, for themselves and the shirt, but as a group we have to do better.
It was a bold move to take a midfielder off and bring a striker on [after Mancienne's dismissal] and have 4-3-2, but I knew [James] Milner and [Kieran] Gibbs could get up and down [from right and left-back] as they're good athletes. Theo [Walcott] wasn't injured but I wanted to win the match. It was a bold call, but I thought we could trouble the opposition with the pace of [Gabriel] Agbonlahor and [Fraizer] Campbell. In order to do that we needed a solid bank of three behind the front two and Theo had to come off.
The shift the team put in physically was commendable, they just have to play better as a football team. The thing that disappointed me most is that they've passed the ball fantastically in training the last two weeks. They know they have to do a lot better to have an impact. I'm pleased with the points as the Finns pushed us and pushed us, but we stood firm and once we got our noses in front in the second half I felt reasonably comfortable we'd hold on. We'll learn a lot from this.
I expect a better performance against Spain [on Thursday] and we'll need one. Remember we couldn't beat the Czechs in our opening game in 2007 so when I wake up in the morning the only thing that matters is we've got three points.
Markku Kanerva, Finland coach
I'm very disappointed we didn't get any points but am very proud of the way we played and the courage and fighting spirit we showed. We can take a lot of positives from this game into the matches against Germany and Spain. We'll have to defend better from set-pieces but I have to be satisfied with my players. England defended well and had experienced players who were able to calm things down even when we had them under pressure. We know that the difference between two teams is often about efficiency in front of goal. They didn't create many chances but scored two goals – otherwise there wasn't much between the teams.
I'll have to analyse the game more thoroughly after I've seen it again but when we went 2-1 down we made some substitutions which led to three or four scoring chances. Our boys are not used to that kind of tempo in international games but our opponents were Premier League players who are used to it and they had that little bit of extra energy. We got tired, for sure. We played well but they had almost 60 minutes with ten men. The first goal was particularly sloppy and I'm disappointed with that – otherwise I was very satisfied with the game as whole.
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