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Sep 14, 2012

England U-21s face Serbia

England will face Serbia in European Under-21 Championship play-offs in October.

Stuart Pearce's side finished top of Group Eight with seven wins from eight matches in order to be seeded for the play-offs.

Serbia won Group Four, earning two wins over Northern Ireland on their way to qualification, but failed to earn a seeded position.

The tie will be played over two legs between October 12-16 with the winners progressing through to next summer's finals in Israel.

If victorious, England will qualify for their fourth successive finals at this level.

Despite such a positive recent record, Pearce feels it will be tough to progress against Serbia.

"It's a difficult tie for us, no doubt, but when you are down to the last 14 in Europe you know you are not going to get an easy draw. People would have looked at the draw and hoped for a runner-up, but the runners-up all made it to the finals last time, which shows the strength of the competition."

A trip to Serbia will be a new experience for Pearce's young players, something which concerns the former Manchester City manager.

"There are a lot of factors to consider, playing at home first, and travelling to Serbia, who are group winners. Whatever is said we will have to be at our best to make it to the finals. However, I'm sure anyone looking at Bowl A would not have wanted to see England come out of the hat either.''

Whatever the outcome, Pearce believes this will be a positive experience for the team.

"It's a real tough draw. They are an emerging side, and I spoke to Savo Milosevic about them and they, like us, have had a number of players move up to their senior team," Pearce explained. "This will be great experience for our players and the team that performs best, takes their chances and keeps 11 players on the pitch will go to Israel.''

Full draw (teams listed first at home in first leg):

Spain v Denmark

Italy v Sweden

Czech Republic v Russia

Slovakia v Holland

Germany v Switzerland

England v Serbia

France v Norway

The seven winners will join hosts Israel in the finals, which will be played from June 5-18 next year.

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