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Pearce: Play in bursts

Lessons learnt by England's young guns three years ago could help their senior counterparts cope with conditions in Brazil, according to Stuart Pearce.

The former England defender had a few pointers for the senior squad about the hot and humid conditions they face in their first game, against Italy in Manaus on Saturday night.

As coach, he took a junior England squad to the Under-20s World Cup in Colombia three years ago.

"The conditions there were very, very, similar in one of the games that we played," Pearce told Sky Sports News. "The humidity was terrible, the temperature was really hot - we played in the heat of the day as well, and I saw the effect it had on our players.

"The good thing this time is it's our first game playing up there so the fatigue won't have kicked in like it will do once we get into knock-out stages.

"But when we took a group of Under-20s - and the sad thing is there is no-body that represented England then that could have had that experience who has gone with the group now - it was stifling, it really was stifling.

"For our players, it was their fifth game in the tournament and the fatigue had kicked in and they were absolutely dead on their legs. You really had to play the game in bursts.

"We just had to play purely on counter-attack.

"We sat very, very, deep and every time we turned the ball over from set-plays that was our best opportunity of scoring a goal."

Pearce, who reached the World Cup semi-finals in the Italia 90 campaign, admitted his confidence in England's chances this time has grown.

He said: "It's strange, the further away from the tournament, I felt that we'd probably draw the first two games, win the last one and get out of the group.

"The closer to the tournament I'm getting and the more I'm seeing us play and the more I think that we've got impact players coming off the bench in Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling and one or two others, the more confident I'm feeling.

"I think we'll definitely get out of the group, without a doubt, and I honestly feel I can't see us getting beat by Italy, that is for sure.

"Sterling is certainly one, whether you use him from the start or as an impact, he has the ability to hurt the opposition."

Pearce gave a candid insight into what goes through players' minds, adding: "I had 20 caps over a three-year period before I went to the World Cup and nothing prepared me for the pressure and the nerves for that first game.

"Varying players will have varying different emotions - there's an old squad of players, maybe Steven Gerrard might be thinking 'this could be my last tournament, my last hurrah, I'm captaining England' and he's got a wealth of experience at both club and country level.

"On the other side, you've got a Luke Shaw that's probably thinking that he's not going to start and he's never been to a major tournament before at any age group for England - so between one to 23, everyone's going with a different mind-set of experience and know-how."

Although he feels England's preparation maybe had one game too many, he said: "It looks as though the team that started yesterday will be starting against Italy and they played a week earlier at Wembley so he's kept a consistency of playing every week which is what the players are used to and I can understand that.

"If Oxlade-Chamberlain comes out of Miami with this injury solving itself before the start of the tournament then we have no injuries, so it'll be very good."

And for those Nottingham Forest fans worried their new manager's focus is elsewhere, he said: "We're hoping to announce two signings on Monday in Nottingham. We're on the ball."

Stuart Pearce is supporting the StreetGames Football Pools Fives, a programme taking footballing opportunities to young men and women in underprivileged areas across the UK. www.streetgames.org/footballpoolsfives