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Gerrard looks for atonement

Captain Steven Gerrard admits it will take England a long time to recover from their World Cup despair.

The Liverpool midfielder believes only a successful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign followed by tournament glory in Ukraine and Poland can repair the damage.

Fabio Capello's side take on Bulgaria at Wembley tonight followed by an away clash with Switzerland on Tuesday.

Gerrard knows the pressure is on the players to perform after crashing out at the last-16 stage in South Africa.

He said: "I think it's a similar situation to when we didn't qualify for Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren which was a low moment. It's going to take time to recover from this position.

"The only way we can recover is to improve results and try to qualify smoothly out of this group. Then we've got to try to prove to people in the tournament, if we get there, that we can do a lot better than in South Africa."

Gerrard is adamant his passion and hunger to play for England is as great as ever. He is determined to end his international career on a high rather than with the despair of losing 4-1 to Germany in Bloemfontein in late June.

He said: "I still enjoy England. I love it. I really do. Hand on heart, I enjoy coming down here.

"I've had a lot of lows with England, of course, but there's no way in the world I was going to go out after that Germany game.

"I'm 30 years of age and there's still an opportunity for me to go out on a high with England. That's the challenge moving forward.

"I'm as excited as I was going into the World Cup games going into this qualifier with Bulgaria."

Capello has come in for plenty of criticism for England's early exit but Gerrard has seen no evidence of a lack of support amongst the players for the manager.

He said: "To be honest with you, I don't know if everyone is totally 100pc behind him, of course, because I can't control what's going through every player's mind."

Gerrard finds it hard to explain why Wayne Rooney had such a disappointing World Cup but is convinced his commitment to his country cannot be challenged.

He said: "Not just for Wayne, but a lot of players want to put the World Cup behind them."

ENGLAND v BULGARIA,

LIVE SETANTA IRL & ITV (KO 8.0)


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