Saturday 14 December 2019

Steven Gerrard: I've put Chelsea slip firmly behind me

Simon Peach

England captain Steven Gerrard approaches the World Cup in a good frame of mind, having overcome the slip that was a catalyst to the capitulation of Liverpool's Premier League title challenge.

It had looked like the Reds would end a 24-year wait for a league title this season, with an 11-match winning streak giving them a healthy lead at the top with only three matches remaining.

However, that run came to an abrupt end as Chelsea triumphed 2-0 at Anfield, with the sucker-punch coming as Gerrard's mis-control and slip put Demba Ba through to open the scoring.

Liverpool blew a three-goal lead to draw at Crystal Palace the following week but the midfielder's slip is widely-seen as the defining moment in Manchester City winning the title.

Opposition supporters have gleefully taunted Gerrard since then but the Reds captain insists that mistake will not affect his performances at this summer's World Cup.

"I am good, I am excited, I am really looking forward to it," the England skipper said. "Both for club and country I am in good form and I am excited like everyone else.

"I know everyone wants to know what frame of mind I am in because of the slip that happened to me against Chelsea but I am over it, it has gone, I can't change it.

"Of course I was disappointed in it from a personal point of view and the title slipping away from Liverpool with three games to go was a blow.

"But you've also got to look at all the positives as well, having Champions League football back, finishing second in what is the most difficult league in the world.

"I can't just focus on one mistake I made over 38 games. I am in a good frame of mind, I am excited and I can't wait to get started."

Gerrard is one of five Liverpool players in England's 23-man World Cup squad, while another, standby Jon Flanagan, joined them in the Algarve this week at a pre-tournament training camp.

The squad will now spend time back on home soil ahead of Friday's friendly against Peru at Wembley, before jetting off to Miami to take on Ecuador and Honduras.

The time in the United States will help them acclimatise to the hot and humid conditions expected when they travel to Manaus, deep in the heart of the Amazon, for their World Cup opener.

It is only three weeks until they face Group D favourites Italy at the Arena Amazonia, where Gerrard believes Roy Hodgson's side can upset the applecart.

"We've got to go there, work hard," he said, looking at England's World Cup chances.

"It's going to be tough, that's the message to everyone in the squad, but we've got the talent and ability in the squad that, if we get a bit of luck, can surprise a few. The first thing is to get off to a good start against Italy.

"I think what is important is that we try and put on a good show in the three friendly matches and try and gain some early belief and confidence.

"Then hopefully that has a snowball effect going into the tournament and there is no bigger game for us than starting against Italy.

"We go in as underdogs, of course - the Italians have a very experienced squad and have proved at major tournaments they are capable of going to the end.

"But we certainly don't fear them, we've got an awful lot of respect for them, but we believe we can go there and create a shock in the first game, which would be so big for this country."

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