Wembley date excites Noble

Mark Noble is gearing up for a major international date at Wembley this Friday night as he looks to help England Under-21s reach the 2009 Euro play-offs.

A draw for the Young Lions would be good enough to make sure of their spot in the two-legged ties featuring 14 countries next month that will determine which seven will join hosts Sweden in next summer's finals. Portugal are six points behind England in Group 3 but have another game left after this week's contest. As well as making sure of top spot, defeating the always-strong Portugal could also cost the Iberian nation the chance to go through as one of the four best runners-up.


Noble, who is relishing his first taste of the new Wembley after appearing at the old stadium as a schoolboy, is confident in his team's chances on what promises to be a memorable evening at the stunning setting of the rebuilt national stadium. "We have got a good record," he said. "We haven't lost since I have been playing. We have only lost a semi-final on penalties in the [2007] European Championship. I didn't really count that to be honest. It is just the luck of the draw if someone misses, someone misses.

"We are not used to losing at that age group. We have let in two or three goals in the past ten games." One of those goals against was in last month's 2-1 home friendly win against Slovenia in Hull, when Noble took the captain's armband for the second half. The 21-year-old, who has three goals in eleven appearances at this level, pointed to that as an example of how the team will not take anyone for granted, let alone opposition with the pedigree of Portugal.

"We went one-nil down in the friendly against Slovenia but we came back and we won. Going into a major qualifying game against Portugal we will not underestimate what is in front of us. [Not wanting to lose] is born in all of us ... A draw is not the best result but it is a lot better than a loss and I think as U21s we never underestimate the opposition."

Should England progress to the 2009 finals, it could be vital experience for those who make the step up - should the senior side qualify - for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Noble is under no doubts that Fabio Capello's men will make it - "I firmly believe we are going to qualify" - and added that once there those selected could make an impact. "Hopefully the adrenalin will kick in with the players and let them show what we have really got."