Stuart Pearce warns England Under-21s of Ukraine threat

England manager is wary of the danger posed by his Under-21 side's opponents in Denmark tonight

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Stuart Pearce has warned his England Under-21 side not to underestimate Ukraine when the two nations meet tonight.

England scraped a 1-1 draw with Spain in their opening match of the European Championships on Sunday, while Ukraine were defeated 2-1 by the Czech Republic in Group B’s other encounter.

But Pearce insists that despite their loss on Sunday, England’s opponents tonight in Herning will pose a serious threat to their hopes of reaching the semi-finals.

“They’re a good side who put the Dutch out [in the play-offs] and that takes some doing – the Dutch having finished above the Spanish [in their group],” said Pearce.

“I don’t think there was a lot in their first defeat against the Czech Republic. Credit must go to the Ukrainians, they finished strongly and pushed on towards the end.”

Pearce has called on his England side to be more careful in possession after Spain were able to dominate proceedings for long spells during Sunday’s draw.

“It’ll be a totally opposite game from the Spanish one,” continued Pearce. “It’ll be more physical but still high tempo and we can adapt to different teams as we have shown this season.

“They are all must-win games now. My goalkeeping coach, Martin Thomas, said that no team has ever failed to go through with five points. If we win the next one and get a point in the one after that then I’ll be delighted.”

The England coach is expected to drop Hamburg’s Michael Mancienne, who captained the side on Sunday but struggled to make an impact in midfield, for tonight’s clash.

Jordan Henderson, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverly are the favourites to take the armband, but Pearce says the captaincy is a non-issue.

“If Michael’s not on the pitch, then he can’t captain the team – it’s common sense. For me, there is no relevance to the issue,” added Pearce.

“My loyalty doesn’t stem to making sure the last person who captained the team will be in the next team. That’s absolutely no consideration to me at all.”

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