Walcott: 'Swedish crowd won't faze us'
Thursday, 25 June, 2009
Theo Walcott is ready to make an impact against Sweden whatever his role.
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Theo Walcott is enjoying Sweden with the Under-21s and says that England are ready to take on the hosts in Gothenburg on Friday.
After lining up for the senior team in Kazakhstan and against Andorra at Wembley earlier this month, the Arsenal forward flew out to join Stuart Pearce's men as they prepared for their opening game against Finland.
Now, with three games played which secured top spot in Group B, Walcott believes their results have sent a message to the sides left in as they go into a last-four meeting with Sweden.
"In the first game you want to get the win, and especially going down to ten men showed great character from all of the lads to come back from that. From there we have pushed on and done very well," Walcott told TheFA.com.
"We’re undefeated, that’s a great message to get out to the other teams going into a semi-final, We’re looking forward to Friday."
Walcott started the first game in Halmstad, but in the next two games he came on as a second half substitute.
But it was his introduction against Spain where his pace and direct approach caused serious problems and helped inspire England. He set up a goal for James Milner as The Three Lions sealed an early passage to the semis with a game to spare.
"I knocked it past the defender and from there Milly (James Milner) did the rest for me. To beat the favourites 2-0 it was a great performance again," he said.
"I always want to play games and you’re disappointed if you are not starting," he said, "But the boss spoke to me and told the subs to be ready to make an impact and that’s what we did.
"You always just want to play and that’s why I’m here. I just want to play in the tournament and it’s the first experience I have had of playing in a tournament.
"You want to be in that starting line-up, but if not you’ve got to make an impact off the bench."
And although he didn't score against Spain, his impact harked back to a substitute appearance against Germany in 2006, just a few months after he travelled there for the World Cup.
It was the Under-21s play-off for the 2007 Finals, England were 1-0 up from the first leg when they arrived in Germany.
Walcott's appearance as a late sub shook the Germans as he smashed in two goals to clinch a spot in the Finals.
"I only played 20 minutes and come on up front and banged in two goals," recalled Walcott.
"A Bainesy long ball and he played it in between the two centre-halves and I got onto it and tucked it past the keeper. And the second goal, I can always remember these goals, this one's one of my favourite goals I’ve ever scored. Milly dug out the ball to me and I was one-on-one, knocked it past the defender and kept on going.
"I opened my body out, and people always compared it to Thierry. I learned a lot from him.
"It was great to get to those Championships, but unfortunately I had my injury and couldn’t quite get there."
Now, though, Walcott says the shoulder injury that prevented him from travelling to Holland is behind him and he's determined to make up for it this summer.
Meeting the hosts in Gothenburg on Friday won't faze him and his team-mates, either. With the stadium full of Swedish support, it's something that is familiar to them, playing in big away grounds domestically in England.
"Especially with the home support, they’ll be up for it, but we know that. We’re focused and ready for the challenge.
"It won’t affect us. If anything it could put pressure on them if we get the first goal. It could create a lot of chances and space at the back, so we’ll utilise that."
He added: "It’s a great bunch of lads and being a similar age helps the bonding.
"The lads are buzzing everyday, there’s smiles on all faces and all seems well.
"It’s just great to be here. It’s fantastic. It would be great to get a trophy and spur on the young teams and the seniors as well, that England could win things."
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