• Montenegro v England

Gerrard shrugs off Montenegro jibes

ESPN staff
March 26, 2013 « Abramovich arrest reports denied | Chartbeat test »

England captain Steven Gerrard has silenced the vocal Montenegro camp, insisting pre-match jibes from coach Branko Brnovic and striker Mirko Vucinic have proved the Three Lions are on the frontfoot ahead of their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Brnovic lit the fuse ahead of England's trip to Montenegro, claiming Roy Hodgson's side are predictable in their preference for "long passes".

Gerrard followed Hodgson's refusal to be lulled into a war of words, claiming England will prove their mettle against the Group H leaders on the pitch, not be distracted off it.

"They seem to be more interested in doing all the talking," Gerrard said. "But talking doesn't win you football matches. I'm not really too interested in what they've got to say.

"With regards to his comments, it just shows we've got them exactly where we want them. I'm more interested in how the lads play when the first whistle goes.

"Going back to whether we play long balls, it's important to have a good mix, to play a certain way but also have a Plan B where you can go more direct."

Montenegro lead England by two points and could take an important step towards securing the automatic qualifying spot for next year's World Cup with a positive result on Tuesday, but Gerrard denies the match is a must-win for his side.

"I wouldn't say so. I don't think the result is crucial," he said. "Yes, it is very important and puts either side in control of the group who wins.

"But I don't think it's the end of the world if we don't get the result we want. We are confident to do a job here. I think a defeat here would be very damaging to us. Let's hope that is not the case. We are confident to get a result."

"We believe, if we play to our level, we are more than capable of three points and that's what we have come here for. We know we've got to play close to our maximum to beat this good team.

"We know if we play anywhere near our level, we will get the result. We are concentrating on what the manager wants of us, to be very good defensively and play attacking football when we get the ball."

While Friday's 8-0 drubbing of San Marino provided England with a confidence boost, Gerrard admits it is the crunch matches that are more appealing to footballers and he realises the importance of letting a strong performance lay criticism to rest.

"These are the big games you want to play in. These are the atmospheres and stages you want to perform on as a player and a team," the 32-year-old said. "We will get a lot of credit if we get the result.

"Will I say anything before game? Not really. I just say my piece along with anyone else who wants to speak as well. The manager gives all the players the opportunity to speak.

"I don't think this is a game for talking. All the players realise how important it is and we need to do our talking on the pitch I've got a lot of confidence in my team-mates. They've got some wonderful technicians but I've got confidence we are a better team if we play to our ability."

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