England captain Steven Gerrard sounds warning over Italy quarter-final

 

Captain Steven Gerrard has warned England that Italy will be no pushovers in Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final in Kiev.

Roy Hodgson's side avoided a last-eight meeting with world and European champions Spain by finishing top of Group D.

But Gerrard, man of the match in last night's 1-0 victory over co-hosts Ukraine, expects the Azzurri - who showed their quality by holding Spain to a draw earlier in the tournament - to provide a stern test.

"It was fantastic to top the group and we need to enjoy it now but then dust ourselves down because it will be a very tough game against the Italians," the Liverpool skipper said.

"They are a very tough team to beat. They are good defensively, have got a fantastic keeper in (Gianluigi) Buffon, and they've also got match winners in the ranks.

"They are similar to us and it will be a very close game. Let's not under-estimate them one little bit.

"But, if we get that bit of luck and play well, I'm confident we can do well."

Gerrard's confidence comes from a belief that England are finally realising their potential in a major tournament.

He said: "When the group came out of the hat at the draw, it was evident that it was a very difficult group.

"But in previous tournaments we've underperformed and not delivered for our country. That's why we've gone home early. In this one so far, it's been good.

"A lot of credit has got to be given to this team. I don't think it's a case of us over-performing. We're just performing to the level we're capable of.

"To do well against the teams you come up against here - 16 fantastic teams - you need to play well."

Gerrard knows how significant the contribution of Wayne Rooney, who netted the winner against Ukraine, could be during the next 11 days if England are to lift their first silverware since 1966.

Rooney returned after a two-game suspension and converted Gerrard's right-wing cross early in the second period.

"Rooney is a fantastic player," Gerrard said. "I know how good he is and how important he is to our country and he showed it against Ukraine.

"There was a lot of pressure on him. He hasn't been playing much lately, and had the suspension, so credit to him for the way he performed.

"With more game time, he can only get even better."

PA

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