Pearce prepared for England Under-21 play-off permutations

The Young Lions topped their qualifying group but must win a two-legged tie against an unseeded in team in order to seal their place at the European Championships in 2013
England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce has admitted to keeping a close eye on his side's possible opponents ahead of the play-offs to qualify for the European Championships in 2013.

The Young Lions topped qualifying group eight thanks to Monday night's win over Norway, but still face a meeting with an unseeded team to seal their place at the tournament in Israel.

And the former senior team caretaker has revealed that he has been fully aware of the permutations throughout the process of qualifying.

He told ITV: "I would like to say that we haven't looked at that yet but I've studied those league tables on a daily basis for the last two seasons.

"Before [the Norway game] we knew exactly all the possible outcomes for us and the teams we could get.

"I wouldn't have wanted Norway to come out of the group with us if I'm being honest as that would have given us more of a chance of getting a runner-up - not that that particularly makes it easier for you as two years ago all four runners-up went to the finals having beaten group winners.

"So there is a word of caution there as there are plenty of things that can go against you - players' fitness and availability and so on.

"All the play-off fixtures will be tight affairs as everyone wants to be at those finals and we have two years' work wrapped up in eight days in October now."

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham scored the only goal of the game as Pearce's men edged out the Norwegians at the Proact Stadium.

However, Pearce was quick to play down any hype surrounding the youngster, who has struggled to break through on Wearside following an £8 million move last summer.

He added: "It is important that someone in my position doesn't elevate these players to a God-like status too soon, and certainly not write them off too soon.

"We have a tendency in this country to do so, but an even ship and a steady progression would be more beneficial.

"Connor is still only 19, but sometimes because of the stature of the lad - in fact a lot of the players - the bottom line is that they are all Under-21s."