England v Poland: Steven Gerrard desperate to avoid repeat of Croatia heartbreak at Wembley
The captain was part of the side that lost 3-2 and failed to reach Euro 2008
Monday 14 October 2013
Steven Gerrard is desperate to avoid another night of qualification heartbreak when England take on Poland in Tuesday's crunch match at Wembley.
England took a big step towards World Cup qualification on Friday when they beat Montenegro 4-1, but if they do not beat Poland, they will have to go through the play-offs to book their ticket to Brazil.
Gerrard has the misfortune of being one of the four current members of the England squad who played in a similar game six years ago.
On a miserable, soaking wet night at Wembley, England needed a point against Croatia to make it to the Euro 2008, but the visitors won 3-2.
Instead of challenging for the trophy in Austria and Switzerland, England's players went away thinking what might have been and they also had to endure playing in drab friendlies against the United States and Trinidad & Tobago.
Gerrard will take the feeling of disappointment that followed that defeat to the grave with him, and he certainly does not want to go through the same experience on Tuesday night.
"That Croatia game is one of those that you are never ever going to be able to eject from your mind and that is why it's so important to seize this moment and look back at the Poland game with fond memories," the England captain said.
"Fortunately that was a long time ago, let's hope we don't experience something similar on Tuesday."
Unlike in 2007, England at least have the play-offs to fall back if they finish second in their group.
But anyone who regards the play-offs as a 'safety net' should be reminded that even though England would be seeded for the two-legged games in November, they could still be pitted against France.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Gerrard wants to get the job done this week.
"None of the players have mentioned the play-offs," the Liverpool midfielder said.
"We want to seize this opportunity. We want to win. The play-offs are a safety net but the lads want to get the job done and finish it off in style in front of our supporters."
The stakes could not be higher for Gerrard. The skipper was part of the campaigns in South Korea and Japan and South Africa, but he will be 34 in May and will therefore not be around when the competition heads to Russia in 2018.
The fact that the World Cup is in Brazil is also a source of motivation for the England captain.
"It's going to be a fantastic carnival tournament out there so the players and the supporters want to be part of it," Gerrard said.
"That is why it is so important that we put on a performance against Poland and try to get a win."
Poland are not blessed with the same talent that Croatia possessed, but they still have a couple of match winners from Borussia Dortmund in Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Hodgson was keen to emphasise on Friday that the job was only half done, and Gerrard insists no-one in the squad will under-estimate the Poles.
"I would be very surprised if any of our players showed complacency" Gerrard said.
"Everyone looked sharp, focused and ready in training."
Gerrard will earn his 107th cap on Tuesday, moving him ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton up to fourth in England's all-time appearance list.
The 33-year-old is proud of the honour, but concedes it will mean little if England do not pick up the three points.
"It is nice to pass landmarks and break records as you go along, but for me the main focus for me is getting to Brazil," he added.
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