Stuart Pearce admits England had little chance of a kind draw for next summer's European Under-21 Championship.
Pearce's Young Lions will learn their group stage opponents on Wednesday when the finals draw is made in Israel. England have qualified for their fourth successive tournament but Pearce acknowledged the calibre of opposition had never been tougher.
Head coach Pearce said: "This is our fourth draw and it is possibly the first time we have thought to ourselves that whoever we get is going to be really, really difficult to beat."
Virtually every European superpower qualified, with defending champions Spain joined by Germany, Italy and Holland.
England will avoid the Dutch by virtue of both being second seeds but will play one of Spain or hosts Israel, who are top seeds.
The remaining teams in the draw are Russia and Norway, who were in England's qualifying group.
Pearce added: "We have said similar in the past, but always knowing there are certain teams we'd have liked to have been seeded with.
"This time, everyone knows there are some real top nations here, with good qualification records.
"The only surprise to some - although not to us - would be Norway. We played them in our group and we know how good they are.
"Apart from France, who had a fantastic qualification record, everyone who is considered a strong European nation is here to compete in this."
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