Euro 2012: ‘Captaincy has brought the best out of Steven Gerrard’
Glen Johnson feels Steven Gerrard has raised his game to an even higher level since being named England captain
Glen Johnson believes his Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard has thrived under the pressure of captaining England at the European championship.
The 32-year-old midfielder has been one of England’s star performers, providing the assist for Joleon Lescott’s header against France, teeing up Andy Carroll in their 3-2 victory over Sweden, and helping Wayne Rooney end a run of 653 minutes without a goal in a major tournament.
“Steven has been a fantastic player for many, many years, but with the armband I think he feels he needs to step up just that tiny bit more, and I think he’s done it more than anyone so far,” said Johnson.
England set up a quarter-final tie against 2006 World Cup winners Italy after Rooney’s second-half winner in their final Group D match ensured Roy Hodgson’s side finished in first place and avoided defending champions Spain.
But the 27-year-old Liverpool defender is that adamant all of the nations in the last eight are good enough to claim the Euro 2012 title.
“Any team in the tournament has got a chance of winning it,” he added.
“The first objective was to get out of the group, we did that very well by winning the group, so now it’s a one-off game and in a one-off game you can beat anyone.”
Pre-match facts: Italy v England
• England have not taken part in this tournament since 2004 thanks to their failure in Euro 2008 qualifying. Home and away losses to Slaven Biliš’s Croatia and a defeat by Russia in Moscow proved costly as Steve McClaren’s men finished third behind their conquerors.
• England’s overall European championship record is a tale of disappointment. Their 2008 setback was the fifth time they had failed to reach the finals, and they have had just two semi-final places (1968, 1996) from the seven final tournaments for which they have qualified.
• To underline the point England head to Poland and Ukraine as the only European winners of the World Cup who have not won the European championship – Italy (1968), Germany (1972, 1980, 1996), France (1984, 2000) and current holders Spain have all done so, but England have yet to reach the final of the competition.