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By ESPN Staff
Mar 31, 2009

England's young Lions given French lesson

Stuart Pearce believes the 2-0 friendly defeat to France could prove to be a blessing in disguise for his Under-21 side ahead of this summer's UEFA European Championships.

England are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Sweden but they were outclassed at the City Ground by France, who will not be at the finals.

England had forgotten what defeat felt like until they lost their long unbeaten record to a vastly experienced Ecuador side in Malaga last month.

But it is becoming an unerringly familiar feeling after first-half goals from Gabriel Obertan and Moussa Sissoko made it two defeats in three friendly internationals either side of Friday's victory in Norway.

Pearce believes his players will learn from the defeat and that they have the character to bounce back and be stronger.

"We were outplayed by a very good French side and I think the beating will serve us well," said Pearce.

"This defeat and this bloody nose that we have taken might have come at just the right time.

"Things have been going fairly smoothly for us. These players are used to coming off having played reasonably well and having won matches.

"But that is what the Under-21 squad is all about - learning. We have got a massive tournament in the summer and we have to learn from this.

"The players are disappointed but the one thing that they have got is character, individually and collectively.

"They will want to come out next time and be better players and they will learn from this.

"From a coach's point of view, we have had a great nine days together and at the end of that time we have learnt the most valuable lesson."

Pearce's upbeat mood continued as he was quick to emphasise the importance of the valuable experience gained by the younger players.

Everton's 18-year-old midfielder Jack Rodwell was handed his Under-21s debut with five minutes remaining, while the likes of Fabrice Muamba, Michael Mancienne and Danny Welbeck added to their caps tally.

"I think there are positives that we can take from the game, and players getting minutes under their belts is one of them," said Pearce.

"Jack Rodwell has got his first cap, Michael Mancienne and David Wheater have gone into double figures for caps, and Danny Welbeck has come on and so has Fraizer Campbell.

"I don't think there is a player out there that hasn't learned something or taken something from the game and that can only serve us well for the summer."

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