Posted: Saturday 14th June 2014 at 9:36 am

Steven Gerrard says England have no excuses


England captain Steven Gerrard says there can be no excuses for World Cup failure as they prepare to face Italy.

Roy Hodgson’s side finished their build-up by training in the heat and humidity of Manaus’s Arena Amazonia.

Gerrard said: “As each day creeps closer to the game itself, a sense of excitement grows.

“It is here now. All the distances and the miles we have covered, the heat preparation – we have done all that. There are no excuses now.”

Hodgson’s team, one of 32 competing in Brazil, are in Group D, where they also face Uruguay on 19 June and Costa Rica five days later.

Around 7,000 England fans are expected in Manaus for Saturday’s 23:00 BST kick-off against Italy, with 2,500 having travelled as part of the official England fans club.

The game will be broadcast live on BBC One, while there will be BBC Radio 5 live commentary and live text coverage on the BBC Sport website of all three of their group games.

England have been acclimatising over several weeks for the fierce heat that greeted them in Manaus when they stepped off a four-hour flight from Rio – where they are based – on Thursday afternoon. The match-day temperature is expected to exceed 30C in this city in the north-west of Brazil.

Hodgson has referred his players to the Royal Air Force motto ‘Per ardua ad astra’ – ‘through adversity to the stars’ – and has called for supporters “to believe” in his side.

“If it doesn’t go that well for us, it’s not for any other reasons than it didn’t happen for us on the night,” he added.

But at least any concerns the Football Association might have had about the playing surface were reduced after assurances were received from the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

The STRI is co-ordinating pitches at the World Cup but also has a direct relationship with the FA after working on Wembley and the England team’s Urca military base training centre in Rio.

In its report, it said that while the pitch’s appearance might not be aesthetically pleasing, there were no concerns about how it would play on Saturday night when England face the team that knocked them out of the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on penalties.

“I’ve been on the pitch and it is possible to play good football on it,” said Hodgson. “We’ll be perfectly happy to play on it.”

Gerrard, 34, added: “In general with footballers, when things don’t go right the easy way out is to look for an excuse. You look at other people, point fingers and blame others, say that wasn’t right, this wasn’t right.

“The FA leave the players with no excuses. They try their best and it is 99.9% right. This time they have put everything in place, they have done everything they possibly can for the players to perform.

“When the whistle goes against Italy you are on your own. You are with your team and you have to have belief in what we are going into the tournament with.

“I think we are in a good place, but everyone knows you get judged in these kind of tournaments, after them and after every individual game.”

Gerrard’s vast experience, playing in his third World Cup after missing 2002 in Japan through injury, will be vital in a young group boasting exciting youngsters such as his Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling and Everton’s Ross Barkley.

“It is very talented,” said Gerrard of the squad. “We have very experienced players who have vast experience at this level and have had great careers. We have a middle age group in the squad, a group of players who have had terrific seasons.

“And then we have also got that newness and freshness in the squad – the people everyone are talking about like Raheem, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley to name a few. I would still class Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson in that bracket.

“The talent is there, the ability is there but this is the most difficult and the most pressurised stage to deliver on, both personally and as a group.

“It is all right having the talent but it is also being cute, clever and having that knowledge of how to beat these sides because everyone has got what we have got.”

Hodgson echoed those sentiments. “We are here to try and win it [the World Cup], to try and play our best and give such a good account of ourselves people at home feel proud,” the manager said.

“But now the talking is over. Bring the game on.”

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