STEVEN GERRARD believes England are ready to upset the odds and get their Euro 2012 campaign off to a flyer against France today.
The Liverpool skipper, who leads Roy Hodgson’s side into their Group D opener in Donetsk’s Donbass Arena (5pm), insists the Three Lions are ready to impress.
It’s been 10 years since England beat a major nation in a tournament, when Argentina were defeated in the 2002 World Cup, but Gerrard is on a mission to end that wait.
“It’s too long, especially for the standard of players we’ve had over the last 10 years,” Gerrard said.
“That’s an extra motivation going into the game and we are really looking forward to it.
“France are a good team with attacking players. If we give them took much respect they can really hurt us but I’m confident we can put that 10-year thing to bed and beat a big side in a major tournament.
“If we can beat France it will prove we can compete against any team in this tournament because I think France are one of the favourites. I’m quietly confident we can get further than the public think.
“I’ve said how proud I am to lead the boys out. The spirit in the camp is fantastic. The preparation has gone really well. We’re itching to get started.”
At yesterday’s press conference in Donetsk, a French journalist questioned whether England should still be regarded as a major football power considering their miserable record since winning the World Cup in 1966.
“Questions like that are more of a motivation,” Gerrard insisted. “I don’t see them as something to react to or an accusation. I have belief in my team-mates. I see it in training, I see it week in, week out in the Premier League.
“It comes more from not performing in tournaments. But three times we have been a penalty kick away from getting to the last four. If we had done, people’s perceptions would have been a lot different. In one tournament very soon it will click, we will get that bit of luck and prove an awful lot of people wrong, like that (French) fellow who was sitting at the back.”
It’s set to top 30 degrees in the Donbass Arena this evening but Gerrard shrugged off concerns about the stifling conditions.
“We can cope with the heat,” he said. “It’s important not to think too much about that.
“There will be 50,000 people there. It’s what you want to be involved in. Nobody will be fearing the heat or the French. It is all about us and how we play. If we turn up and play to our level we can get the result we need.
“There’s no point one or two turning up, otherwise we’ll go home early. To be successful at this level everyone has to be right at it. It’s the first game. It is important we don’t get carried away thinking we are going to win the tournament if we win and don’t commit suicide if we lose because there will still be two games to recover. It’s not the end of the world.”
Fellow Reds Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing are also expected to start tonight with Gerrard happy to occupy a deeper midfield position than he’s used to at Anfield.
“I am playing more of a disciplined role in this set-up under Roy and I’m comfortable with that,” he said. “It’s all about the result the team get, not about me. I think the days of me bombing forward in games every minute are gone..”