Terry dominated the headlines before the crunch meeting with Slovenia because of his claims players wanted to discuss concerns over tactics and team selection with coach Fabio Capello. But it was on the pitch the Chelsea player proved his true worth with a rock-solid performance in England's 1-0 win which moved them into the second round and a meeting with Germany.
Terry made several crucial blocks and was a strong contender to be England's man of the match, especially as Matthew Upson was his fourth different defensive partner in as many games. He had previously partnered Rio Ferdinand (Japan), Ledley King (United States) and Jamie Carragher (Algeria).
Cole, who made his first appearance of the finals as a second-half substitute, said: "You can't knock 'JT' (Terry). He is the best centre-half in the world. Some of the blocks and the tackles he put in against Slovenia were brilliant. He has played with three different partners at the World Cup, four in the last four games. John is the heartbeat of the side and he is an exceptional player. We've got so many good leaders in the team and it was a great performance from him.''
Cole, one of his country's best performers at the 2006 World Cup, believes England can make their mark in South Africa particularly with Capello at the helm.
He said: "The feeling after getting through to the next round was of relief. The boys want to do so well. People misunderstand. We live it 24 hours a day and we want to do so well for the country. For whatever reason, it doesn't always work but we are always there and I believe we can do it. I feel it is our time and, if we keep playing like we did against Slovenia, anything can happen for us at this World Cup.
"I believe in the team and the manager. We are right behind the manager and everyone and, if everyone believes we can do it, I really genuinely think we can.''
It needed a sharp piece of finishing from Cole's former West Ham team-mate Jermain Defoe to set up Sunday's meeting with the Germans. It was his first competitive start for England in nearly two years and Cole believes the Tottenham striker has been unfortunate in his career.
He said: "Jermain is as good as anyone I've played with finishing-wise. He has been so unlucky in his career. He is only a year younger than me and he has never really held a regular place down. In terms of finishing, he is as good as anyone in the country. He is the best.''
Cole impressed in the final quarter of the game but must wait to see if his efforts merit a recall to the first XI.
But he stressed: "Whether I am playing for one minute or start the game, I will give everything for the cause. Hopefully I can play a large part but it's down to the manager.''