Euro 2012: It may be Gerrard’s defining England moment – Rio

Rio Ferdinand believes England captain Steven Gerrard is approaching the "defining moment" of his international career

steven gerrard
Steven Gerrard will captain England for the 21st time against Italy PA Photos

steven gerrard

Rio Ferdinand believes England captain Steven Gerrard is approaching the “defining moment” of his international career at Euro 2012.

The 32-year-old has been in sparkling form at the European championship so far, and the Liverpool skipper will be desperate to help England to victory over Italy and into their first semi-final at a major tournament since 1996.

Gerrard will captain the Three Lions for the 21st time against the Azzurri, and Manchester United defender Ferdinand heaped praise on Champions League winner for bringing the England squad together, and thriving under the added responsibility.

“Steven will know, like I did, that you can’t have people being left on the fringes, not being included, and he has made a real effort to support all the players,” Ferdinand told The Sun.

“He has more than 90 caps but this feels as if it is his defining moment in an England shirt. He is leading by example, has had three assists and taken on all the responsibility really well. He wants to be the one the team relies on.”

The 33-year-old said that when he first broke into the national team, the players would spend more time with their respective club team-mates at England camps, but Ferdinand believes that culture no longer exists under Hodgson and there is a greater squad ethic.

“When I first started with England, players would sit in distinct groups,” Ferdinand added.

“You would have a table for Manchester United players, another for the Liverpool lads and one for Alan Shearer and his mob.

“I didn’t know where to sit for fear I would upset one group or another and be marked down as in a particular gang. It all sounds strange now but that’s how it was in those days.

“In the squad today you have plenty of Manchester United and Liverpool players but many have had a different upbringing.

“Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have moved to Anfield, yet are north easterners. And, of course, Danny Welbeck knows Henderson from the time he was on loan at Sunderland.”

Pre-match facts: England v Italy

• Italy took nine attempts to beat England for the first time, Fabio Capello scoring in a 2-0 home friendly victory in 1973. The Azzurri nevertheless hold a slight head-to-head advantage with a record of W9 D6 L7.

• Although the nations first played in 1933 they did not meet in a competitive fixture until 1978 World Cup qualifying, trading 2-0 home wins – but it was Italy who made it to Argentina. The Azzurri have won four of their six competitive meetings, England just one.

• Hodgson has had coaching spells in Italy at Internazionale (1995-97, 1999) and Udinese Calcio (2001). In 1999, when serving briefly as caretaker coach back at Inter, he worked with Andrea Pirlo.

• Hodgson enjoyed a famous win against Juventus during Fulham’s run to the 2010 Europa League final, overturning a 3-1 first-leg loss with a 4-1 home victory in the round of 16. Claudio Marchisio played for Juventus in the first leg.

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