Cole defends Gerrard tumble on grounds of self-preservation

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The Independent Online

Joe Cole is treating the forthcoming World Cup as if it could be his last as he strives to make an impact on football's biggest stage for the first time.

Cole made only a brief substitute's appearance against Sweden during the 2002 finals and was even more disappointed not to taste any action during Euro 2004. But the Chelsea midfielder is now an integral part of Sven Goran Eriksson's plans and has faith that the current squad can make an impact in Germany.

"I don't want to go to another tournament and not play," Cole said. "I want to be involved and that's always been a big motivation for me. The dream of lifting the World Cup is what drives me on. For a footballer it doesn't get any higher than that. You may only get two or three chances in a career to achieve that if you are very lucky.

"This is my second chance already and, you never know, it might be my last so you have to grab the opportunity with both hands. It's taken me some time to get into the team but I've finally got my break and I don't want to let it go. "

Cole added: "We have got the players to do well, there is no doubt about that. We have great strikers, the midfield is full of goals and the defence is one of the best in the world. With people like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, there are not much better in the world than those two.

"David Beckham is proven, and then there are Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole. These players would walk into any side in the world. We have just got to come together as a team.

"The spirit is fantastic right through the squad and we are right to be optimistic because we have got a great chance."

Steven Gerrard was given the chance to play in the attacking midfield role in Tuesday's friendly international against Hungary in the absence of Wayne Rooney but Cole also has faith in his ability to plug the gap left by the Manchester United player if required.

He said: "We hope Wayne will be fit but if he isn't, I'd be ready to play his role if necessary. I'm more than confident in my ability to play anywhere for England."

Cole's ability has been evident since he was a teenager at West Ham and Pele this week likened his skills to those of a Brazilian.

But the Chelsea player is used to having high expectations placed on his shoulders and insisted: "I will do what I've always done, which is to go out there and play my game and try my best. Pressure is only there if you let it get to you and I'm just going to go out there and play and if I can help the team to score a few goals or make a few goals, I'll be delighted."

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