England goalkeeper Joe Hart has called on his side to display the sort of ruthless streak during Euro 2016 which was so desperately amiss during their dismal group-stage exit at the World Cup two years ago.
Roy Hodgson oversaw England’s worst performance on the world stage for more than half a century in Brazil, although their results since that tournament suggest progress and an upward trajectory.
The Three Lions have lost only two of 21 matches since their South American debacle and breezed through qualification for the European Championship with a perfect record of 10 victories, albeit from a group including Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.
Hart believes England can draw plenty of solace from their inter-tournament record, but memories of those narrow defeats to Italy and Uruguay in 2014 have left the Manchester City stopper craving a more clinical approach this time around.
“Playing to a decent standard sometimes isn’t enough, we have got to be really ruthless at both ends of the pitch,” said Hart, for whom this is a fourth major international tournament.
“It’s an obvious thing, that doesn’t differ from Premier League or Capital One Cup football, but it’s the thing that probably stood out the most in the two games we lost in the World Cup.
“We could have walked off easily with two victories but we didn’t and that’s the most important thing. If we can be on the right end of key moments we will go far.
“I fully believe in the guys we have got. We’re going to attack as a team and defend as a team. We’ll work hard, we are well regimented and we are ready.”
There remains considerable debate over England skipper Wayne Rooney, his enduring effectiveness and the best formation in which to accommodate the Manchester Untied striker-cum-midfielder.
Irrespective of the side Hodgson opts to select for tSaturdays Group B opener against Russia in Marseille, Hart insists that Rooney’s experience is integral to guiding England’s youthful squad through the rigours of tournament football.
“It’s exciting, fresh, there’s a lot of youngsters so they are probably going to be a lot more comfortable than maybe other teams,” added Hart, who is part of the youngest squad at Euro 2016, with England’s party having an average age of 25.
“Wayne is such a key part of the squad. He’s accessible to all the players, that’s the way Wayne is.
“There’s definitely a connection, age doesn’t really factor into this team. We are one and we’re all pushing in the right direction.”
Southampton left-back Ryan Bertrand could come into contention for a place in England’s matchday squad for Saturdays clash at the Stade Velodrome after returning to training yesterday following a calf problem.