Pearce proud of England Under-21 side

Stuart Pearce will be taking his team to the European Championships in the summer. Photo: PA

Reaching the European Championship finals represents success in itself for England Under-21s manager Stuart Pearce, although the "burning ambition" remains to win the tournament.

The Young Lions did just that in 1982 and 1984, but the best they have managed since is reaching the 2009 final when they where heavily defeated by Germany.

Pearce was at the helm that night and kicks off his fourth successive finals at the Under-21s' helm against Italy tomorrow evening in Tel Aviv.

No other nation in Israel have reached so many consecutive finals and Pearce is proud of that fact, even if victory remains the ultimate goal.

"When you look at my time in charge, France have not been here once and they are a major side," the former England international said.

"To get here and be part of this fantastic tournament is a success in itself.

"When we start our journey every two years, we sit our players down and we talk about winning the tournament. We are here to win the tournament.

"I would be really disappointed if there was not seven other nations here not here to win it as well. That is the message I only ever send out to the squad.

"On top of that it will be how many players can get tournament experience here, the likes of Jordan Henderson, who can step into the seniors next time round with that experience that they have had of tournament football.

"If I strip it down, the burning ambition inside me is to win it.

"But if I strip it down to me doing my job developing players, developing the 23 players here at the moment will have had fantastic experience and know what tournament football is all about.

"Hopefully we will get a few of them stepping forward. Roll the clock back two years and you have Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, all in the seniors who were on this stage and have stepped forward.

"Sometimes it is maybe best to let time take its course then look back and say what has been successful for us."

In the short-term, tomorrow's Group A opener against Italy will play a major part in determining England's success.

Thomas Ince is suspended for the opener. Credit: PA

Boasting senior internationals like Marco Verratti, Mattia Destro and Fabio Borini, the Azzurrini pose the sternest test in a group that also includes Norway and hosts Israel.

"I think Italy are the favourites," Pearce said. "Having played the Norwegians on two occasions, I think they are an extremely good side.

"The Israelis have home advantage and I think that will play a big part in this. It is a fairly wide open group, if I am being honest with you.

"Quite often, it might hinge on your result in the first game. You have to handle the nerves of the occasions."

Pearce believes he has the squad to do just that, admitting it is as good as any he has worked with previously.

Thomas Ince and Danny Rose miss the opening match through suspension, although there is welcome news in regards to Wilfried Zaha's fitness.

The 20-year-old, star of Crystal Palace's rise to the Premier League, has overcome an ankle complaint that forced him to sit out most of training yesterday.

"Wilfried is coming along nicely," Pearce added. "We have a full squad to pick from tomorrow night. No problems at this moment.

"Has just been a bit tight on the ankle. He is coming along nicely, doing everything we wanted.

"He has played every game plus all the play-off games, 120 minutes I think I think he played.

"We are not concerned about Wilf. He will come along and be up for selection and we take it from there."