Pressure on England in San Marino game, says Gerrard

22 March 2013 02:16

England captain Steven Gerrard admits that his side will be "on a hiding to nothing" when they tackle Group H whipping boys San Marino in their latest World Cup qualifier on Friday.

With the hosts ranked joint-last in the FIFA ranking, the game is likely to resemble an attack v defence training exercise, and British bookmakers believe England are odds-on to score at least four goals.

England initially laboured to break San Marino down when the teams last met in October, before eventually winning 5-0, and Gerrard knows Roy Hodgson's men will face a similarly thankless task in Serravalle.

"The pressure's all on us," he said. "It's all about trying to get that breakthrough as early as we can.

"The difficulty with this game is they're out to stop us and keep the score down. They're going to try and slow the game down, they're going to do stupid fouls, they're going to try and get the referee to do anything to stop us from scoring and winning the game comfortably.

"With all due respect, we're on a bit of a hiding to nothing, because if we don't win the game by more than three or four goals, we're not going to get any credit anyway.

"So it is unique and it comes with slightly different pressures, but we've got the quality in the squad to win this game comfortably and that's what we should do."

Despite the vast gulf in quality between the sides, England manager Hodgson says it would be foolish to believe the quickest route to victory lies in sending his team out in the most attack-minded configuration possible.

"Formations are always to some extent over-exaggerated," he said.

"You know, how wide are the wide players? How far up the field are the front players? How much do the front players retreat? How far do the wingers drop back? How often do the full-backs get forward?

"We've got all of those and you (the media) understand it every bit as well as Steven and I do. I'm always a bit loath to make it that simplistic - you know, if you play 4-4-2 then you'll have more chances of scoring a goal than if you don't."

In the build-up to the game, the English media have focused on Rio Ferdinand's controversial withdrawal from the squad on fitness grounds.

The Manchester United centre-back's decision has been portrayed as a slight to Hodgson, who had called him up for the first time, but the England manager insists he has no regrets.

"When I chose that squad of players, I gave a lot of thought to what the squad should be, who deserved to be in the squad, who could help us win the two games (including Tuesday's game in Montenegro), and Rio's name was added to that," he said.

"I also said that when he told me he wasn't able to come and accept the invitation, I was disappointed about it and it was a pity that it couldn't come about this time, but we'll move on and we'll work with other players.

"I don't have any regrets at all."

Hodgson said the commitment of the current squad was "impossible to fault in any way whatsoever", and Gerrard confirmed that, for his part, the desire to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil still burns strong.

"I don't know whether Rio has turned his back on it. I don't really know all the details from Rio's side," said the Liverpool midfielder, when asked about Ferdinand's decision.

"For me, that's what I want to achieve: help take this team to a World Cup in Brazil. Especially at my age, there's no better stage to play at as an international footballer, to go to Brazil and represent your country.

"Especially after beating Brazil (2-1 in February), I think it shows that, with a full-strength squad, we're capable of beating the best."

Source: AFP