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Howard Wilkinson, England U21 manager
"Overall, the squad's got a terrific look about it"
 real 28k

Monday, 27 March, 2000, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
Reshuffled youngsters head for Barcelona

Carl Cort: Ruled out with ankle injury
Click here for an overview of the tournament

England's reshuffled under-21 squad are preparing for a crucial European Championship play-off against Yugoslavia in Barcelona this Wednesday.

The team won their qualification group with a record far superior to their senior colleagues.

But the smaller under-21 tournament means that it is far tougher to qualify for than the senior Euro 2000 competition.

Wilkinson: Learning realities of international management
England's under-21 coach Howard Wilkinson has received a lesson in the harsh realities of international management with the news that five of his call-ups have withdrawn through injury.

Three of the absentees are strikers with ankle problems - Leeds pair Alan Smith and Michael Bridges plus Wimbledon's Carl Cort.

That leaves Emile Heskey the only one of the original forwards in the squad, with the Liverpool striker hoping to impress sufficiently to enhance his claims for the senior team.

Middlesbrough's Andy Campbell, who scored the winner against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, Everton's Danny Cadamarteri and Southampton's Kevin Davies have been drafted in.

It is the first call-up for Davies since he played against the Czech Republic at Portman Road in November 1998.

Wilkinson has also lost the services of Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson due to a finger injury and Manchester United's Luke Chadwick because of a virus.

Heskey will seek to enhance his full international claims
Liverpool midfielder David Thompson has been brought into the squad.

The coach believes it will be of enormous benefit for England's young hopefuls if they make it to the four-game finals.

"Tournament football is the ultimate test at international level," he said when naming his squad.

The former Leeds boss has benefitted from the superb record he inherited from predecessor Peter Taylor, who left the job last year after winning seven of the eight qualifying matches.

Taylor, now managing second division Gillingham, was a victim of the departure of senior coach Glenn Hoddle who appointed him to the post.

Revised squad

Ball (Everton), Barry (Aston Villa), Carragher (Liverpool), Cole (West Ham), Curtis (Man Utd), Dyer (Newcastle), Ferdinand (West Ham), Gerrard (Liverpool), Harley (Chelsea), Hendrie (Aston Villa), Heskey (Liverpool), Johnson (Derby), Lampard (West Ham), Mills (Leeds), Morris (Chelsea), Weaver (Man City), Wright (Ipswich), Young (Tottenham), Campbell (Middlesbrough), Cadamarteri (Everton), Davies (Southampton), Thompson (Liverpool)

Tournament details

The under-21 championship features eight teams compared to Euro 2000's 16 sides.

The junior competition takes place in Slovakia between 27 May and 4 June.

If England qualify they will go into a group with Italy, Turkey and the host nation.

Under-21 tournament
Eight qualifiers
Qualifying sections followed byplay-offs
Two finals groups of four
Group winners straight into final
Held around Bratislava, Slovakia, in May and June
Teams except England have chance of Olympic qualification
Defending champions Spain, the Czech Republic, Croatia and the Netherlands have already qualified for the other group.

The seven other qualifiers are already known due to a delay in playing England's tie with Yugoslavia.

The game should have been over two legs but could not be played in Belgrade due to the poltical situation.

The original venue of Luxembourg was also ruled out due to security concerns, leading to the decision to hold the match in Spain.

The venue is not the giant Nou Camp, but FC Barcelona┐s "Mini Estadi" next door to the main stadium.

Olympic dream - but not for England

The tournament features two groups, the winners of which meet in the final.

There is added incentive for the countries, apart from England, with the top four set to represent Europe at this year's Olympic Games.

Since the UK competes as Great Britain at the Olympics, if England make it to the last four, a play-off between the two third-placed teams in the groups will decide the final place in Sydney.

Tournament calendar

Group Matches:

Saturday 27 May
A: Spain v Czech Republic
A: Croatia v Netherlands
B: Italy v England/Yugoslavia
B: Slovakia v Turkey

Monday 29 May
A: Spain v Croatia
A: Czech Republic v Netherlands
B: Italy v Slovakia
B: England/Yugoslavia v Turkey

Wednesday 31 May
A: Netherlands v Spain
A: Czech Republic v Croatia
B: Turkey v Italy
B: England/Yugoslavia v Slovakia

Olympic play-off (if necessary):
Friday 2 June

Third Place play-off and final:
Saturday 3 June

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