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Pearce hits back at Spain jibes

Stuart Pearce has labelled Spain's pre-tournament taunts "irrelevant" as England prepare to meet the tournament favourites in their opening European Under-21 Championship match on Sunday.

• Euro U-21 Champs preview
• Huguenin: Denmark play host to Euro feast

Thiago Alcantara, the Barcelona schemer who is viewed as the heartbeat of the Spain side, recently stoked the fires by claiming he had not heard of any of the English players.

Alcantara was quoted as saying in The Guardian: "The only ones we really know are Jack Wilshere and Micah Richards, but they are not here.

"That is good news for us because they are good players. Richards is a very good defender, while Wilshere is probably the best footballer in the whole team. The fact they will not be playing against us is a positive thing for us. We've not really heard of any of the other players.

"We expect to play well and win because we play the better football. We are very technical and pass the ball more, whereas the England team are very direct."

Pearce faced the media on Saturday, and instantly rebuffed the statement, before suggesting that Spain are not even the favourites in his eyes.

"The only concern we have is of the Spanish quality on a football pitch. That's what we concentrate on. Verbal innuendos are irrelevant to my squad," Pearce said.

The England boss was then asked if Spain's 'favourites' tag was disrespectful to the Czech Republic, who boast a striker in Tomas Pekhart who has scored 16 goals in 22 games.

"100% yes," Pearce answered. "The Spanish are decent, but they didn't win their group. We've come here as No. 1 seeds in Europe over a three-year period and we didn't win our group.

"The Czechs waltzed through their group against the holders (Germany), and also the Icelandics were in their group who are here as well. So that's a mark of how good the Czechs are."

Pearce would not name his captain for Sunday's clash, and he also rejected the suggestion that England should base their youth setup on the Spanish example.

"As a coach, you take lessons from all nations, the Spanish, the Germans, the French... ten years ago it was the French model being lorded. We have to take lessons from everywhere. But you also have to work to your own players' strengths. To ask an English individual to play a Spanish style, or an Italian to play an English style is not workable.

"We'll go with the personnel that I think will win the game. Everyone's fit. We may have one of the youngest squads here, but it's also one of the most talented."

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