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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 1, 2006

Gerrard ready for England's 'biggest test'

Steven Gerrard has warned England must raise their game or face being dumped out of the World Cup by Portugal in Saturday's quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen.

The Liverpool skipper admitted Sven-Goran Eriksson's side 'can't play like this and win the World Cup' as they look to avenge the last eight defeat by Portugal in Lisbon during Euro 2004.

But Gerrard believes the big match experience of skipper David Beckham and Co at club and international level will stand them in good stead during the business end of the tournament.

He said: 'This is the time you need to raise your performance because you won't get away with the way we have played.

'You are now going to come up against top sides who won't let you beat them playing like we have done so far.

'It has got to get better or we could be on the plane going home Sunday and I want to stay for the whole duration. We can't play like we have and win the World Cup.

'This is going to be our biggest test - and individually and collectively we need to raise our game on Saturday.

'The consolation is some teams everyone has been saying have been playing great football are on the way home.

'I know we have had our criticism - and rightly so - but it is not too late to start playing well and if we put in a good performance against Portugal and go into the last four, we are not going to be scared of anyone.

'There are a lot of big players in the squad who have played in big games in the past, Champions League, FA Cups etc, and I am sure that will hold them in good stead for Saturday.'

Gerrard admitted: 'I think we need to pass the ball better and keep the ball better. I think we are trying to force the play too much.

'Most of our games have been at four o'clock and it's difficult to play at a high tempo and you can't pass the ball because the pitches are so dry. But you've got to try and keep better possession.'

Gerrard is driven by a hunger and desire to succeed in Germany after missing out on the 2002 finals in Japan after undergoing groin surgery.

He accepts this may be England's best chance for many years to win football's most coveted prize given several players will be past 30 by 2010 in South Africa.

He said: 'I think if we were to go out on Saturday, I don't think that is good enough for the players we have got out here. We need to go further than that.

'We've only reached the World Cup semi-finals twice in our history so it would be nice to be part of a team that did that for the third time.

'But, although, people are saying it would be great to get to a semi-final, I'm thinking `I want to play in a World Cup final.'

'It would be great in 10 years' time if people are saying `we were the second team to win the World Cup' and if we lift our performance and get that right result on Saturday, that will give us the confidence to go all the way.

'I think for some of us it is the last chance. If you are realistic, it could be even more difficult to win the World Cup in South Africa with the climate. This might be our chance for a long time.'

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