England skipper Steven Gerrard has vowed not to let minds wander beyond tonight’s Euro 2012 qualification decider with co-hosts Ukraine.
The Three Lions need a point to guarantee their place in the last eight, which was felt to be the minimum requirement for new manager Roy Hodgson at the start of the tournament.
To some extent, that target has been taken away. Even if England were to fail, the impact Hodgson has had in his short time in charge confirms the national side are moving forward and is currently in safe hands.
However, having suffered so much quarter-final heartache in the past, perhaps it is no surprise minds should be drifting slightly.
Not Gerrard’s though. He is acutely aware of how tricky Ukraine are likely to be. “I am trying to force myself not even to talk about the quarter-finals, or get involved in it,” said the midfielder.
“It would be very disrespectful to tomorrow’s opposition, who are very dangerous. If I started talking about quarter-finals and we slipped up I would never forgive myself.
“Let’s deal with what we can expect if we get there.”
Getting the right response to Gerrard’s demand has been helped by Greece’s stunning victory over Russia on Saturday, which eliminated one of the tournament heavyweights.
“Absolutely,” said manager Roy Hodgson.
“The cliches in football are also the greatest truths. That is a fact.”
Gerrard also claimed it was a cliche to think England may be intimidated by the intense atmosphere predicted in the Donbass Arena, when the overwhelming majority of a 60,000 crowd will be desperate for a home win that would send Ukraine through.
“The fans don’t score goals,” said Gerrard. “The noise doesn’t score goals. We are not worried about how noisy it is or what the atmosphere is like. I can’t wait. Sixty thousand fans all cheering. That is what you play football for.”
Hodgson reported no concerns about the pitch England have to perform on tomorrow, even though UEFA made it unavailable for today’s final training session, which instead took place in Krakow prior to departure.
With Theo Walcott available after his hamstring scare yesterday, Hodgson is picking from strength.
Walcott has realistic claims for selection too, based on his match-changing display against Sweden on Friday.