'We were awful' - Pearce slams England Under-21s after Italy defeat

The Young Lions sit bottom of Group A after Lorenzo Insigne's free kick proved enough to secure victory for Italy in their opening match at the European Championships in Israel
Stuart Pearce heavily criticised the performance of his England side after they suffered a 1-0 loss against Italy in their opening encounter at the European Under-21 Championships.

Lorenzo Insigne's second-half free kick was the difference between the two sides but the Azzurrini had dominated the encounter throughout against a lacklustre England side.

10/1 England are 10/1 with BetVictor to win the U21 Euros
And while Pearce is still adamant the Young Lions can progress to the knock-out stages, he admitted after the match that they have a lot of improving to do if they are to escape from Group A.

"We were awful today," he told Sky Sports. "We've got to get better than that, the players know that, I don't have to tell them that, they look at me and know exactly in their mind.

"They don't kid themselves these chaps. We give it to them blatantly when they've done well and obviously when we haven't done well we look at it and we learn the lessons by it.

"The main thing in tournament football is getting out the group. We've got two games to come and we have to win both of them."

Pearce did draw some positives from the game though, highlighting England's defensive display and the performance of debutant Nathan Redmond.

"I think the big thing is we played as badly as that and only conceded one goal to be fair. We were in the game for a very long period of time," he continued.

"The longer the game went on, I think the Italian threat was nullified a little bit by the way we changed, how high we pressed the game. We were more compact and there was less space for us to be picked off.

"Redmond's performance, considering it was the first game he played at U21 level, was very good and he was a real threat to the Italians."