Gerrard: We need to improve in defence vs Uruguay
By Glenn Mason
England captain Steven Gerrard has called on his side to improve their defensive performance when they meet Uruguay in Sao Paulo tonight.
England drew many plaudits for their attacking approach in their defeat to Italy, but were let down by some defensive errors in the 2-1 loss in Manaus.
A confident Gerrard has predicted another positive display against Uruguay, as England look to kickstart their World Cup campaign.
"For me, I think the key in this game is who defends the best," said Gerrard.
"You have got two very good teams full of attacking players. We are very confident going in to the game that we can get the right result.
"I was delighted with our attacking performance against Italy, although I thought we could have been a bit more clam in the final third with our final pass and scored a few more goals.
"I certainly have no doubts going into this game that we are going to create the Uruguayans big problems going forward. We have got a lot of pace, a lot of ability and I think you will see another attacking England performance.
"That’s the reason why the key to this game is if we can get our defensive side right."
"I’m sure the young lads in the squad are aware of how difficult a summer it’s going to be if we fail tomorrow" - Steven Gerrard
Defeat tomorrow night would almost certainly send England packing and Gerrard knows from past experience the pain that an early World Cup exit brings.
It is one of the things he will be contemplating tonight and before the game tomorrow as he sits studying the opposition on his iPad.
Gerrard said his young squad remains upbeat despite the opening game defeat and they are well aware of the criticism that awaits them if they get knocked out in the first round.
"I think the message is quite clear. I spoke to the group during the week to reiterate that message of the pain of going out of World Cups," he commented.
"We want to perform and get three points tomorrow. We want to stay here as long as possible. I’m sure the young lads in the squad are aware of how difficult a summer it’s going to be if we fail tomorrow."
Gerrard has chosen not to make contact with Liverpool team-mate and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez out of respect for his England team-mates.
The two players are good friends, but there will be no communication between them in the run-up to kick-off.
He said: "I’m not going to speak to Luis Suarez tomorrow, two hours before the game. That would be very unprofessional and very disrespectful to my own team-mates.
"I’m very good friends with Luis. We have had some banter and some conversations in the build-up to this game, but there will be no communication tomorrow."
Suarez was the main reason behind Liverpool’s resurgence this season, so Gerrard is well aware of the threat he poses to England’s World Cup hopes.
There is still some doubt over Suarez’s participation, but Gerrard said England have prepared for the whole Uruguayan team and not just their talisman.
“Luis Suarez is a genius. I have said that many, many times,"” Gerrard stated. "He is a wonderful player. It’s going to be a boost to the Uruguayan players and their supporters to have him back.
"They have more than one player. They have good, good players around the pitch. They are a strong team, so we treat Suarez like another Uruguay player. Of course, we have deep respect for them as a team and Luis as an individual. We have a game plan in place to try and win the football match.”
The England skipper also offered praise, albeit reluctantly, on his young Liverpool team-mate Raheem Sterling.
Expectations have risen after Sterling's performances in helping Liverpool finish second in the Premier League last season.
Gerrard was keen to play down any hype but said it was hard not to see Sterling’s potential to be a key player for England over the next decade.
He said: "He was very consistent and he seems to be growing every game. He was fantastic for us the other night against Italy. I’m sure he’s going to be around this level for a very long time and contribute.
"He’s got fantastic pace, he’s very skilful. He’s capable of creating goals and scoring goals, so my prediction is he is going to win many caps and be a big player for England."