World Cup preparations are well under way, says Steven Gerrard and England’s skipper can't wait to lead his country in Brazil.
TheFA.com: How are preparations going for the World Cup and how important are the games between now and 14 June?
Steven Gerrard: Preparations were already under way from the moment we qualified. I’m sure the manager is going to use the games to still experiment, but will also want to get the team into a good frame of mind going into the tournament. It’s important we start to hit top form, because before we know it the tournament will be here.
What were your initial thoughts were about the World Cup draw?
You know the teams we will be facing are going to make for very exciting games, but at the same time will be a big test. Any of those teams are capable of getting out of the group, that’s how tight the group is going to be. I can’t wait for us to get started.
Italy are first up. Will memories of the quarter-final in Kiev spur you on?
It’s slightly different as it was in the knockout stages we met Italy last time, but of course we want the right result, which is ideally a win. But I think if we avoid defeat in the first game it will set us up nicely for the rest of the group. Hopefully this time we get that luck we need.
Costa Rica are an unknown quantity to some extent, but against Uruguay you’ll face someone you know a lot about - Luis Suarez. He must be a dream to have on your team...
I’d rather play on the same team as him, of course I would. He’s a world-class player who can give problems to any opposition he comes up against. I know him well, I know his strengths and I know the very few weaknesses that he has. But I’m looking forward to competing against him.
Have you spoken to him about the game?
When you play with players domestically they’re your team-mates, you protect them and you do everything you can to win together. We both know that when the whistle goes against Uruguay the friendship goes out of the window for 90 minutes and we both fight for our countries. But I can’t speak highly enough of Luis as a player, he’s up there, for me, in the top five players in the world.
No doubt you are smiling about the form of many of the England players, particularly Daniel Sturridge?
Daniel’s got the world at his feet and he can be whatever he wants to be if he keeps working hard. His form has been scintillating this season and to see him close up in training I see what qualities he’s got. Everyone will be looking for Suarez, Ronaldo, the usual suspects, to stand up and be the star of the tournament, but Daniel is certainly capable to go and star at this World Cup.
Roy Hodgson said he thinks the talent pool is widening in England. Is that something you've noticed?
With the emergence of people like Raheem Sterling, Sturridge, Andros Townsend at Spurs, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal, players are coming to the party each week showing that they are big talents for their clubs. What we need now is for them to gel and it to happen for England at a major tournament. The key is to click for a run of games in a short space of time. If we can do that, that’s the reason why I believe we can have a successful tournament.
How have you enjoyed playing in the deeper role for Liverpool of late? Is there any position you can't play?
Ha ha, in goal! I’m a terrible goalkeeper. The experience as a younger player at right-back, playing in defence from time to time, playing as a holding midfielder for club and country has helped me to adapt into this role quicker than people probably thought I would do. I had confidence in what Brendan Rodgers wanted me to do in this role. It’s not something he sprung out of the blue. It’s something I’ve been working on behind the scenes well before we tried it out in the games. I’ve played this role on various occasions for England as well and I felt that I’ve done well in there. Wherever I’m asked to play or whatever job I’m asked to do I’ll give it everything.
You missed the trip to Brazil last year, so how much are you looking forward to the opportunity to play there this summer?
If someone asked where my ideal World Cup would be, of course it would be England. But if that’s not to be, then I’d pick Brazil because of their history and tradition and how serious they take the World Cup. To go there and experience the atmosphere, the whole journey is going to be a fantastic experience, especially the age I’m at. I want to go there to do well with England, have a real go and try to shock a few people who don’t believe in us.
The full interview with Steven Gerrard appeared in the England v Denmark official matchday programme.
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