Ashley Young says England are already raring to go for next week’s World Cup opener against Tunisia.
The Three Lions have won their opening fixture just once in the last four World Cups, squeezing past Paraguay 1-0 in 2006, but lost to Italy four years ago following 1-1 draws with the United States (2010) and Sweden (2002).
They were also held by an unfancied Russia in their first outing at Euro 2016, but Manchester United full-back Young insists the current crop are ready to make an early statement this time.
Tunisia await in Volgograd on Monday and England are ready to take the game to their Group G rivals.
“It is always important to make a good start to a tournament. You want to get off to winning ways,” said Young.
“We are fully prepared and ready for that first game. You can talk about our results historically but we are here and we are looking to do well in training and do well in that first match. I think you can see from the last two games we have started brightly and on the front foot and if you start like that it can put teams on the back foot and that is what we are looking to do come the first game.”
Tunisia are ranked 21st in the world by FIFA, nine places below England, and served notice of their resilience against Spain at the weekend in a creditable 1-0 defeat.
England, meanwhile, won both of their warm-ups against Nigeria and Costa Rica on the back of lively first-half performances.
“I saw the game on Saturday night and they were good, but every team at the World Cup is a good team,” said Young.
“You have to play against the team in front of you and it is going to be a tough task but we are fully prepared for that.
“Obviously there is more pressure because this is a World Cup but every player in the squad has dealt with pressure. We have to show we can handle that.
“As a kid you want to play in the biggest tournaments and I am as excited as anyone out there.”
Spain are following a dangerous precedent with the madness that has engulfed their camp leading into the World Cup.
Julen Lopetegui’s sacking on the eve of the showpiece, a day after Real Madrid announced he would become their manager after Spain’s campaign ended, has blown up the squad’s preparations at a tournament where they were one of the favourites.
Here’s a look at the biggest off-pitch implosions in the famous tournament’s history.
KEANE: CAPTAIN, LEADER, LEAVER
Nothing tops this. Captain Roy Keane, who had almost singlehandedly led Ireland to the World Cup through a qualifying group that included the Netherlands and Portugal, either walked out on his team or was sent home, depending on whose version you believe.
In the former Manchester United player’s telling of the story, manager Mick McCarthy ambushed Keane at a team meeting, claiming the skipper had faked an injury to avoid playing the second leg of Ireland’s qualifying playoff against Iran. That set Keane, already upset by what he viewed as the Irish federation’s poor preparations on behalf of the team, off.
Let’s just say “I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager and I don’t rate you as a person” was about the nicest thing Keane said to McCarthy in an astonishing tirade. He was on his way back home the next day.
FEUDING FRENCH, 2010
Keane was a one-man insurrection against his manager. Leave it to the French to conduct a proper revolution – or mutiny, depending on perspective.
Manager Raymond Domenech’s tactics and selection all came under question, especially as Thierry Henry was reduced to a squad role. At halftime of their disastrous 2-0 loss to Mexico, Nicolas Anelka went one further and openly insulted the manager. The striker was sent home – leading to open rebellion.
France’s players refused to train the day after the game, and to add insult to injury for Domenech, he was forced to read a statement from the players explaining their actions. In it, they accused the French federation of failing to protect the players and bowing to media pressure. They would soon bow out of the World Cup, ignominiously.
MAD MARADONA, 1994
Argentina’s talisman was near the end of his career as it was, but the 1994 World Cup was in theory a chance for him to have one last hurrah. Diego Maradona had received a 15-month drugs ban in 1991, come back, and won back his place in La Albiceleste’s squad – as captain, no less
The script was written. Then Maradona tore it up.
He scored in Argentina’s opening 4-0 win over Greece, but drew more attention for the crazed look in his eyes as he celebrated. Sure enough, following a 2-1 win over Nigeria, Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, and was sent home. A shellshocked squad followed him after two losses.
Russia begin their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on Thursday on the backfoot as they battle a horror winless run.
The host enter their first home World Cup in terrible form, going winless in seven matches and slumping to 70th in the world.
They will have their task cut out as they face a dangerous Saudi side at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Watch the video below for all the stats ahead of the World Cup opener.