Ashley Cole believes the 2010 World Cup in South Africa represents the last chance for his generation of England stars to win a major international tournament.
Fabio Capello’s side can book their place in next year’s finals with a victory over Croatia at Wembley on September 9 and Chelsea left-back Cole is well aware that for players of his age there might not be another chance to shine in the World Cup.
Cole, 28, and the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand are all in the latter stages of their careers, leaving South Africa as their final shot at ending England’s wait to win the tournament for the first time since 1966.
“We’ve all grown up. We’ve started to realise that this World Cup finals could be our last tournament,” Cole said.
“I’ve got good young players coming up in my position, so I know there is pressure. I have to focus and make sure I do well. I think it’s the same for a lot of players.
“I think the England team is quite set in the players that play too – we’re not chopping and changing all the time.
“The manager knows his team and the squad he’ll take if we get there. He knows the way we’ll play and the lads he’ll pick.
“It feels settled, and people are starting to come into their own. Wayne Rooney, for instance, is playing very well – and we hope we can all play well up to the end of the season and then do something very special with England in South Africa.”
Wayne Rooney’s form is key to England’s chances of winning the World Cup and Capello admits the Manchester United star can get even better as he gains experience.
“Rooney is a really important player, he’s incredible and young – he can improve a lot with more experience and confidence in himself,” Capello said.