Noble's final fling

Mark Noble is determined to lead England's Under-21s to UEFA European Championship glory in his last game for Stuart Pearce's side.

The West Ham United midfielder and U21 captain will line up against Germany at the Malmo New Stadium in southern Sweden on Monday evening.

Skipper Noble is aiming to end his U21 career on a high after playing an influential role throughout England's campaign.

"We started out nearly two years ago to win the competition and we're one step away now," said Noble. "There's still a lot of hard work to do, Germany will definitely not be easy, but we're a confident team, we have a great spirit and believe that we can achieve what we set out to do."

England reached Monday's showpiece by defeating host nation Sweden 5-4 on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw in Gothenburg. England had gone 3-0 up before the Swedes launched a superb second-half fightback.

Noble had suffered shoot-out heartache at the same stage of the competition in the Netherlands in 2007, losing out 13-12 to the Dutch, and he admitted to fearing a similar fate when James Milner sent England's first spot-kick high into the stand.

Thankfully for Noble, goalkeeper Joe Hart saved from Marcus Berg and Guillermo Molins hit a post, sending the U21s through to their first European Championship final since 1984.

"I thought it was going to be a repeat of two years ago in Holland, another European Championship semi-final and another penalty shootout," said Noble. "Before the game, Milly had said about him missing out in two different semi-finals, on penalties, against the hosts and he didn't want a repeat of that. But when Sweden fought back from three goals down I couldn't believe it.

"I think we did a good job in the first half and our preparation was spot on, scoring three goals from one of our strong areas of the game. We have some powerful players in this team and we can be very dangerous from set-pieces.

"After half-time Sweden came out and made it very hard for us and when they got their first goal it really lifted the crowd. They were flying and we should take nothing away from them. To come from three goals down is not easy and they just kept going. But I know it may sound funny, but we never thought that we'd lose, we always had confidence, especially when we went into penalties."

Noble was withdrawn by manager Pearce with England leading 3-1, only to watch on as Berg and Ola Toivonen levelled the scores. Berg hit the crossbar with a late header as England, who lost Fraizer Campbell to a red card, held on grimly for penalties.

"I wasn't on the pitch at the end, and it was probably worse for me and the other subs watching the shoot-out, rather than the players on the pitch," said Noble. "I was nervous, I won't lie, but the lads lining up ready to take their kicks were relaxed and focused after so much penalty practice."

Campbell's sending-off will see him miss Monday's final, while goalkeeper Hart and forward Gabriel Agbonlahor are also suspended after being shown their second yellow cards of the tournament against the Swedes.

Noble says all three will be missed, but insisted he and his team-mates - including fellow Hammer James Tomkins - would do everything to ensure their absent colleagues would receive winners' medals.

"Joe was fantastic, he also smashed his penalty in, and I feel so gutted for him that he'll be suspended for the final," said Noble. "He's worked so hard for us all through qualifying and in the final, and for him to miss out he must be devastated.

"I sort of know what he feels like as I would have missed the final two years ago if we'd made it. But with him, Gabby and Fraizer all out, there are three more reasons why we want to make sure we win this trophy.

"When the last penalty hit the post, it was a great feeling, both mentally and physically. The team dug in and showed their character. Afterwards, the dressing room was quiet as, although we won, we know we can do better. But we're in the final on Monday and no one can take that away from us."

"Next stop Malmo!"

England have won the European U21 Championship twice, beating West Germany in 1982 and Spain in 1984. The Germans have never lifted the trophy.

Monday's final will be screened live on Sky Sports 1, with kick-off at 7.45pm.

Follow England's bid for U21 glory at