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Gerrard: Underdog tag boosts England

ESPN staff
November 21, 2013 « Trump dumped out of Champion of Champions event | Chartbeat test »
Steven Gerrard is likely to retire from international football after the World Cup © AP
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England captain Steven Gerrard believes the diluted expectations around Roy Hodgson's side could work to their advantage heading into next summer's World Cup finals.

England were surrounded by optimism as they swept to automatic qualification for Brazil 2014 with a couple of impressive performances last month, but that confidence was hit courtesy of back-to-back home defeats against Chile and Germany in recent days.

While Gerrard accepts his side will head into the World Cup finals as one of the outsiders to lift the trophy, he does not see that as a drawback after years of England being forced to play under extreme pressure from ambitious supporters and their local media.

"These results will bring people a little bit down from where they were after Poland and Montenegro [World Cup qualifiers last month], there will be a bit of realism and perspective out there," Gerrard told reporters. "It's important people are not too harsh on us.

"It's difficult to judge us after two defeats. Everyone is going to be down and give us no chance and no hope, but when you look at the big picture, at our performances in the qualifiers, you can be upbeat

"Of course we're disappointed after the two results here, but I think it's important we're not too hard on ourselves and don't actually write our chances off.

"We're not one of the favourites [for the World Cup] and we know that. At the same time, you've got to go into the tournament with a bit of belief and confidence and give it your best shot.

"We will go into the World Cup with people judging us fairly now. They're not blowing you up to what you're not going to be and there's not too much pressure and expectation on the players. I'm sure that will help us."

Gerrard was keen to point out that England boss Hodgson will have more options at his disposal by the time the World Cup rolls around next summer, as he is convinced they can compete at the highest level.

"These [friendly] games are all about experimenting and trying things," added the Liverpool midfielder. "When we get our full team back and we are up to full strength, with the likes of [Danny] Welbeck, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain and [Theo] Walcott, we'll have a good team. A team that can go to the World Cup and compete.

"The manager has experimented and tried different things over the last two games. I'm sure he's got a better idea of the 23 he wants to take."

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