Steven Gerrard believes England’s 4-0 victory over Bulgaria was the ideal statement of intent as Fabio Capello’s team try to erase the bitter memories of their World Cup flop.
Gerrard was well aware England desperately needed a good start to the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign after an ignominious second round exit against Germany in South Africa.
And, inspired by Jermain Defoe’s hat-trick, England managed to ease the pressure on under-fire coach Capello with their biggest win for a year.
Gerrard is confident the result and performance have underlined England’s desire to move on from the World Cup and regain the nation’s support.
“We’ve made a statement,” England captain Gerrard said. “I’ve said, after the disappointment of the World Cup, it’s going to take time before this team can be really ready to challenge the big sides.”
Key to England’s resurgence was the form of Wayne Rooney, who cast off the lethargy that gripped him during the World Cup to play a key role in all four goals against the Bulgarians.
It was Defoe who benefited most from Rooney’s sublime passing, but Liverpool midfielder Gerrard was keen to ensure his team-mate’s contribution was highlighted.
“It’s important not just to give Jermain all the credit,” he said. “Wayne got all the assists, so I think the partnership worked – that was the key.
“From front to back, we were superb all over the pitch.”
Gerrard took heart from England’s positive performance but he wants a repeat in Tuesday’s second Group G game in Switzerland to ensure there is no chance for the critics to start laying into the team again.
“The important thing now is not to get carried away and try to build on that,” he said.
“Tuesday’s going to be even more difficult. It’s a tough game away from home. They’re a good team, Switzerland. Hopefully, that will breed a bit of confidence.”
Tuesday’s match is arguably England’s toughest of the entire qualifying campaign, with Switzerland the one team they will face who managed to reach the World Cup.
Not only that, but they were the only side in the tournament to beat new world champions Spain, stunning them with a 1-0 victory in their opening game.
Gerrard is in no doubt of the threat England will face in Basel next week.
“Internationals away from home are always going to be difficult,” he said.
“Switzerland showed in the World Cup what a good side they are by beating Spain.
“So we’ll have to perform to the same level as we did if we want that result.”
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