Matthew Upson has warned England not to let complacency ruin their chances of making a serious challenge to win the World Cup.
Fabio Capello’s team are well placed to reach next year’s finals in South Africa after storming to the top of Group Six with six successive wins.
They sit seven points clear of second-placed Croatia and a victory over Andorra on Wednesday would all but guarantee England’s qualification.
But West Ham centre-back Upson, who is likely to partner John Terry at the heart of Capello’s defence against the Andorrans at Wembley, knows England can’t afford to rest on their laurels just yet.
“The team is progressing very well, you cannot deny that. However, as a team there is still a lot of things we can improve on. It is step by step,” Upson said.
“We are going to need to get better to be able to win the World Cup by beating some of the best teams in the world.
“We’re not there just yet. We’ve put ourselves in a strong position but we’re still a couple of wins away from confirming that.
“We can’t start taking our eye off the ball and looking ahead to next year just yet, but we are on the right track, so it is a positive time at the moment.”
Upson expects Andorra to come to Wembley determined to frustrate England by getting men behind the ball and trying to rough up Capello’s dangermen.
It is the kind of game that often caused them to stumble during Steve McClaren’s reign, but Capello has made England a much more sturdy unit.
Upson is confident that new-found mental strength will help them through any difficult moments.
“We will dominate a lot of the play but sometimes those sort of games as a defender are the hardest,” he said.
“You can’t get into any rhythm, you have long spells of the game without too much to deal with and then all of a sudden something happens so you have to try and stay focused. It’s a different kind of test.
“We just have to focus on winning. We need to set out with the right mentality and not be complacent.
“Everyone is training hard and competing to get in the team for Wednesday. Everyone’s hungry so I can’t see us being complacent.
“If the team approaches it in the right way, which I’m sure we will, there’s no reason why we can’t get another positive result.”
Although Upson is almost certain to lose his place once Rio Ferdinand returns from injury, he is determined to prove his credentials as the best alternative should either of Capello’s first-choice centre-backs get injured again.
“It’s been the best season of my career to date. I felt I’ve improved and developed well and I’m very positive about next season,” he said.
“I’m really happy with the amount of games I’ve played (for England). I want to play as many games as I can.
“(Playing in the World Cup) would mean everything. It’s something I’ve dreamt of for a long time and worked hard for over the last four or five years.
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