Gerrard urged to forget yellow peril
ROY HODGSON will urge his captain Steven Gerrard and four England team-mates to play their normal game against Italy in Kiev tomorrow despite being one yellow card away from missing a potential semi-final against Germany.
Gerrard was penalised for a foul in Tuesday’s Group D victory over Ukraine and was joined in the book by Ashley Cole.
James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young have also been cautioned in the tournament and, should any be booked against the Azzurri and England prevail, they would incur a one-match suspension with Uefa’s amnesty on cards only applying after the quarter-finals.
The management will impress upon the players the need to put individual concerns to the back of their minds for the good of the collective and maintain their industrious approach.
England have beaten Italy only once in 35 years – at the Tournoi de France in 1997 – yet there is conviction within Hodgson’s squad this team boast the necessary unity and quality to prevail in Kiev.
“We are more organised than ever before and we are all fighting for each other,” said Wayne Rooney, whose goal against Ukraine ensured England won Group D.
“We all want to do this together, so I think we have got a great chance. In a quarter-final anything can happen, but we feel good, we’ve prepared well and we are looking forward to it.
“It was a difficult group. France are a great side, to play Ukraine out here was always going to be difficult, and we obviously hadn’t beaten Sweden [in a competitive game] for a long time, so it was going to be a difficult group to get through. To finish top gives us a lot of confidence.”
England have been buoyed by Young’s steady progress recovering from a bruised shin which should not prevent the Manchester United winger from starting tomorrow.
Joe Hart has said he would be happy to take a penalty if the quarter-final against Italy goes to spot-kicks. Hart had been reported to be ready to step forward to take a spot-kick, and yesterday said he would have no problems with accepting the responsibility if Hodgson asked him to.
The Manchester City goalkeeper told a press conference in Krakow: “If they let me, I would put my name forward 100 per cent.” Hart added: “Hopefully it won’t come to that (taking penalties) but I would back myself (to take a penalty) in a tournament.
“If penalties are required then so be it.” Hart also revealed he practised taking penalties as much as the rest of the England squad.
When asked about how much he practised, he said: “As much as anyone else, I do like to take my penalties.”
Hart also confirmed he looked into how his opponents took penalties and would watch a video of the Italian players taking spot-kicks close to kick-off time tomorrow.
“I do my research, I know where all the Italian players put their penalties,” he said. “I watch it (the video) on my own. I watch it quite late in the day.”