England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce believes success at junior level can equip future international players with a winning mentality.
England’s senior side play Brazil in a friendly at Wembley on Wednesday, with both countries preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup more in hope than expectation of victory.
Pearce has pointed to the recent triumphs of Spain and France’s national teams – and the foundations of their success – as an example to learn from.
“I think it is the only way forward for the seniors personally, for the Under-21’s to deliver, and the Under-19’s to deliver trophies,” he said.
“If you ask me what I mean by that, I would say look at Spain. Before Spain won the European Championships and they were world champions, roll the clock back eight or 10 years. (Andres) Iniesta, Xavi (Hernandez) – they won the Under-21 championships. France did exactly the same before they won in 1998, and the Germans as well.
“You can track it back, and the same group of players end up winning at a younger age group, getting the experience in the finals and then taking that with them when they go on to the big stage for the seniors.
“You can’t just build at the top you have to put the foundations in, and I am a great believer in that.”
Meanwhile, pacy forward Theo Walcott says his happy to play in any position for his country, despite injuries to Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defore potentially freeing up a central role for the in-form Arsenal man.
“Well, I think you’ll play anywhere for England,” he said.
“Things are going well at Arsenal down the right-hand side at the moment but the manager picks the team.
“There has been two absentees with Daniel and Jermain which is a shame, hopefully they can be back as soon as possible.
“But there is an opportunity there as well, that you need to be able to take if given the opportunity. The manager will pick that but it is a different option, I have trained upfront with Wayne (Rooney) today so you never know.”