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Jun 13, 2013

Wickham: We let the country down

Connor Wickham believes the England Under-21 side "let the country down" following their early exit from the European Championship.

• Smith: World's Best Excuses

Stuart Pearce's side crashed out of the group stages after suffering losses in all three of their games, while managing to score just once.

England are just the third team in the competition's history that have failed to pick up a single point from the opening round, and Pearce blamed his players for not performing to the required level.

Wickham has hit out at suggestions that the absence of players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones, who were eligible for the tournament, was behind the dismal showing, while he could not put his finger on why the squad underperformed.

"I don't think there are any players in there that are going to be proud of what we have put in," he told the Sunderland Echo. "We have let the country down and we have let ourselves down in the tournament.

"I honestly couldn't tell you what has gone wrong. I think coming into the tournament we had a lot of confidence. We knew we had strength in numbers but obviously when it came down to it we just weren't good enough.

"The players that are in the dressing room have more than enough quality to go out and do the job. When it came down to it, we just didn't step up to the mark."

Wickham is now determined to get back to his club Sunderland and make an impression next season, while he also has one eye on the next Under-21 European Championship, in the Czech Republic in 2015.

"For now, it is just back to the club, work as hard as I can and try to get into that team," he said. "Now, obviously, there is nothing we can do about this tournament - it has gone.

"For me personally, I am looking to the next one, but first and foremost I want to get back into the Sunderland team and starting to play football again."

Meanwhile, Wickham's former Sunderland team-mate Danny Rose believes that the expectation placed on the nation's sides is too great.

The Tottenham full-back said it was not a lack of effort, but a lack of experience in high-pressure situations, that hindered England in Israel.

"I don't know why people automatically expect England to be contending for those competitions and winning them," he told Sky Sports News. "We last won the World Cup in 1966 so I don't know why people put this expectation on England at all. The expectation should drop a little bit, definitely.

"It's not that no-one didn't try hard enough. It's maybe we weren't used to playing in tournament games under so much pressure. Every time we pull on the shirt, we try hard. I can't really blame my performances on a long season. When I play, I just give it my all, 100%. I had a little niggle but just ran through it."

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