Noble aims for Euro glory at Under-21 finals

Mark Noble is aiming to overcome his penalty shootout heartache by leading England to glory in this summer's European Under-21 Championship

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Mark Noble is aiming to overcome his penalty shootout heartache by leading England to glory in this summer's European Under-21 Championship.

Noble, 22, was a member of the England squad that suffered an agonising semi-final exit in Holland two years ago following an epic 13-12 shootout defeat against the tournament hosts.

The West Ham midfielder is one of five players from the 2007 competition to be named in boss Stuart Pearce's squad for next month's finals in Sweden, where England have been drawn in the second of two qualifying groups with Finland, Spain and Germany.


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Senior England stars Theo Walcott, Micah Richards and Gabriel Agbonlahor have been selected in a strong Three Lions squad, while Hammers defender James Tomkins is also included in the final 23-man party.

And Noble is confident the current side can improve on their previous showing by reaching the tournament final and lifting the trophy.

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He said: "Our main aim is to go to Sweden and win it. We aren't there to get to the semi-finals or anything. We think we have a good enough team to go there and win. If we do that it will be the icing on the cake for the season."

Former Hammer Anton Ferdinand missed England's decisive penalty in the 2007 competition and though he is no longer eligible for the Under-21 side, Noble will have a familiar face alongside him after West Ham team-mate Tomkins received his first Under-21 call-up.

Now Noble is tipping the 19-year-old defender to make a major impact in Sweden.

"He's been fantastic in the last 10 games or so. He was unlucky to miss [the final match of the season through suspension] but he thoroughly deserves his place in the squad.

"I'm crossing my fingers for him that he's involved in the tournament because he's been brilliant for West Ham."

Noble was forced off in the club's final-day defeat of Middlesbrough after complaining of soreness in his groin, but he insists he will be at full strength for England's opening group match against Finland on June 15.

"When you play 35 games in a season it is tough on your body - and that's without the England games as well," Noble said. "But I'll just monitor it as we go along and if I can keep myself fit, hopefully it will go well.

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