Captain believes Three Lions will still reach Brazil
UPBEAT England captain Steven Gerrard insists his team should still qualify for the 2014 World Cup, despite Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw in Montenegro, and believes striker Wayne Rooney can play a crucial role in guiding the team to Brazil.
England languish two points behind Group H leaders Montenegro with four matches left to play and face the prospect of having to negotiate a two-leg play-off to reach the World Cup finals, should they remain in the runners-up spot.
But Gerrard believes Rooney, who scored his 35th international goal this week, can spearhead England’s quest to win their group.
“Wayne is a fantastic player and a great goalscorer,” he said. “If the lads in the team can create the service for Wayne, we know he will score goals.
“He also deserves credit for that goalscoring record. Hopefully he will get more goals and fire us to the World Cup.
“This result is not the end of the world. It is still in our hands.”
Three of England’s final four qualifiers, against Moldova, Montenegro and Poland, are to be played at Wembley, with a tricky trip to Ukraine as well to come in September.
Their current situation draws parallels with previous England teams under Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren, who failed to reach the 1994 World Cup and 2008 European Championship finals respectively.
On both occasions qualification was in England’s hands as they approached the final matches in their respective groups, but they cracked under extreme pressure and their failure to qualify cost both managers their jobs.
But Gerrard is confident the current crop is made of stronger stuff and is targeting a maximum haul of 12 points from England’s final fixtures.
“We will have to wait and see how the other teams do in their fixtures but we are more than capable of winning the last four matches,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“We are disappointed with periods of the game [against Montenegro] but we are also very happy with the first-half performance.
“If we can get that for 90 minutes, we believe we can still qualify.
“At half-time we were very happy. We were in control and we played very well for 45 minutes.
“Then for some reason we stopped playing after the break and we let Montenegro back into the game.
“But credit to them, they kept pushing and pushing and we have to hold our hands up and say they deserved an equaliser.”
ENGLAND’S PREVIOUS QUALIFYING DISASTERS
England’s 2014 World Cup qualification hopes are in the balance with four matches left to play. On the last two occasions the Three Lions failed to qualify for major tournaments they were in similar positions at the same stage.
England endured a calamitous campaign. But, after 0-0 draws against Macedonia and Israel and defeat in Croatia, they could still qualify with four games to go.
What happened next? After two wins, defeats to Russia and Croatia saw England fail to reach the finals and manager Steve McClaren was sacked.
Second in the group with four matches to play, England were on course to qualify for the World Cup in USA.
What happened next? A controversial 2-0 defeat in their penultimate game to the Netherlands, which saw Ronald Koeman score two minutes after he should have been sent off, ended their hopes.