Noble targets perfection

Mark Noble wants to make up for being away from home on Father's Day by helping England continue their perfect start to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

The U21 captain has helped England to back-to-back wins over Finland and Spain in their opening two Group B matches in Sweden.

Stuart Pearce's team have qualified for the semi-finals with a match to spare, and victory over Germany in their final group stage fixture in Halmstad on Monday evening will see England top their group.

Noble, who became a Dad for the first time in March, wants to lead his country to victory over the Germans to make up for not spending Father's Day with daughter Honey.

"[Sunday was] Father's Day, the first since I became a dad to Honey earlier this year," Noble told "I spoke to my girlfriend on the phone and got a message, via her, from my little girl.

"That was really nice but it was horrible being away on my first Father's Day, but it's for a good cause. I'll be spending as much time with her when I get home. Hopefully I'll be able to show her a medal."

Aside from phoning home, Noble has been spending his spare time taking on West Ham United team-mate James Tomkins at table tennis. So far, the central defender has held the upper hand over his skipper.

Another sporting pursuit that has caught on among the England squad is cycling, with Noble leading his team-mates on a number of rides around the Swedish countryside.

"On Friday a few of us got on the bikes and went for a ride into town. There were about 17 of us out together and we were probably getting some strange looks, but it was good fun and shows what the spirit is like in the team, we all like each other's company," he added.

"We had a really good laugh and gave us a chance to think about something other than football. We've had two wins now and after both matches we've got out on the bikes the next day, so I hope that can continue.

"These bikes though are weird, they've all got shopping baskets on the front, but they've got no brakes so you have to peddle backwards to stop. It takes some getting used to, certainly for a couple of the staff members here who have taken a little tumble, but I won't name names. You know who you are…"

While Noble, Tomkins and the other members of Pearce's squad have been enjoying themselves, the squad have also been working hard ahead of Monday's match.

Germany need just a point to reach the semi-finals, but victory for Horst Hrubesch's team will see them leapfrog England and top the group.

As such, captain Noble is desperate for England to maintain their 100 per cent record at Orjans vall.

"In the first game we didn't play as well as we can do, but against Spain we dominated. The boys have been fantastic in training, working hard, looking sharp, and we are well worth our place in the semi-final, we just want to win the group now."

England are likely to tackle Serbia or hosts Sweden, who face one another on Tuesday, in the last-four, having been knocked out at the semi-final stage two years ago.

"It doesn't seem that long ago since we were in the semi-final two years ago, said Noble. "It was a bit different in Holland as we had to win our last group game to go through, but now we're in there with a game to spare and the manager can maybe tinker with the team a little, we'll have to wait and see.

"But just because we are through, we're not going to take it easy, we want to win the game, finish top of the group and send out a message to the others teams."

To follow the U21s' Euro 2009 campaign, visit