Friends ready for finals showdown

West Ham United team-mates Mark Noble and Jack Collison are hoping to go head-to-head when England and Wales meet in the European Under-21 Championship play-offs next month.

The all-British tie came about after last Friday's draw in Sweden, the host country for next summer's eight-nation finals. Both Noble and Collison have impressed playing for their respective countries in the qualifying campaign and, while they would have relished the chance to have met in the finals, they are now focusing on featuring when the two-legged tie comes around on 10/11 and 14/15 October.

"I am looking forward to playing in the play-offs because hopefully we can do well and reach the finals in Sweden next summer," said Noble. "But it's funny how the fixtures pan out and that both myself and Jack could face each other. Jack has done well for Wales so far and will be looking to play in this match as I would like to. I am sure Jack and I will also enjoy some banter over it if we do play."

Noble has just returned from international duty, where he played his part in a 2-0 victory against Portugal which assured England's place in this final qualification stage. In contrast, injury meant Collison was unavailable for selection in Wales' last match - a 3-0 win over Romania - but he is hoping that he will be fully fit when the tie comes around in order to have a chance of playing.

He is also looking to take a leaf out of his fellow midfielder Noble's book and progress as much as he can on the international front. "It will certainly be a good match to be involved in. Both teams are really looking to make their mark and reach the finals, I think it will be a tight game," said Collison.

"It would be funny to line up against Nobes, I am sure there will be a few jokey things said if we both get picked, but he is someone I look up to and I am aiming to do for Wales what he has done for England, in becoming a regular in the U21 side and try to go on from there."