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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

‘A Great Learning Curve’

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

Kevin Sheedy says Everton's youngsters are learning plenty from their worldwide opponents as they continue to impress in the Dallas Cup.

The Blues are through to the semi-finals of the Texas tournament, where they will face Manchester United on Friday.

Having already played sides from Brazil, Japan and Bolivia in the group stages, Sheedy admits the experience is proving invaluable to his squad.

He said: "The economical passing, the simple techniques and the movement off the ball - they're things we haven't really come up against before.

"We've had three really difficult games. In the first one against Coritiba, we had to defend really well and won 1-0, and the second game, which we lost, was against Kashiwa Reysol who were brilliant - probably one of the best youth teams I've ever seen. It was a great education for our players and loads of things came out of it that we needed to improve on.  

"We then produced our best performance against Bolivar, where we were excellent and recorded a very pleasing 6-0 win."

It's not just the difference styles the Toffees are having to contend with across the Atlantic - the weather, too, has proved a challenge.

"The players have rolled their sleeves up and battled hard in really tough conditions,” explained Sheedy. “It's really hot over here and we even had to deal with a tornado at one point, so it's been a good trip!”

Excited by the prospect of a last-four meeting with Manchester United, the former Everton winger is anticipating a close and combative all-English affair with the two sides vying for a place in Sunday’s final.

"United are slightly older," he noted. “It's an Under-20s competition, but due to quite a few of our eligible players being out on loan, we've brought over a very young squad.

"They've brought players over who are right on the age limit. But having said that, we've got the players capable on the day and we’ll be giving it a good go. If we perform like we did against Bolivar, we've got a good chance.

"It'll be a good atmosphere playing in the main stadium. There'll be a good crowd there too, so it's a game we're really looking forward to."

Midfielder Ross Barkley has impressed with his performances in the tournament so far.

The skipper has scored three goals in as many games and Sheedy admits he has been pleased by the 18-year-old’s efforts.

He said: "Ross has shown what he can do. The manager allowed him to come over because he needed games. Here, it's a lot of games in a short space of time.  

"He's done well, he's looked sharp, but he still needs to improve on his match fitness. We expect him to continue doing well for us."

Keep an eye on evertonfc.com on Saturday morning to see how the young Blues fare.

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