Euro 2012: Joe Hart ready to save penalties for England... and take them too
Joe Hart yesterday rubbished suggestions it was already mission accomplished for England at the European Championship as he eyed a famous quarter-final win against Italy.
Roy Hodgson’s men may have proven the doubters wrong by topping Group D after some predicted they would not even qualify.
But goalkeeper Hart claimed it was always “part of the plan” for England to take Euro 2012 by storm.
Asked if a quarter-final berth could be considered a success, the 25-year-old said: “No, because we’re not those guys – we’re winners. The whole point in coming here is not to keep people happy and keep people off our backs.
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“We’ve not come here so we can go home and not get bothered.
“We’ve come here to win games and be successful for us and for the country and make people proud of the English football team.
“If it doesn’t go right – I don’t like talking about that – we’d like to leave having given everything.
“As long as we know we’ve done everything we can, everything in our power.”
The Manchester City star added: “There have been a group of people who thought we’d not do well.
“But I think for anyone who knew the players and knew our mentality and what we came here to do then it’s not a surprise.
“It’s part of the plan.
“It’s obviously a great achievement, but something that we set out to do at the start of the tournament.”
Euro 2012 has witnessed England’s lowest following at a tournament for decades but their best group-stage points tally since Euro 96 has led to a surge of interest in flights to Kiev and tickets for Sunday’s quarter-final.
Hart said: “Walking out against Ukraine the other day, seeing the whole sea of yellow, and that one corner of England fans, bouncing all the way through, making all that noise – it makes so much difference to you.
“And no matter how many there are, when they’re grouped together and you know where they are, your fans mean the world.
“Because you appreciate it’s difficult to get out here. I know first-hand it’s difficult to get people out here.
“So, the ones that make it mean the world.”
England’s players have been queueing up to praise the more relaxed approach of Hodgson compared to that of former manager Fabio Capello.
Rejecting suggestions it was essentially still Capello’s team, Hart said: “At the end of the day, we’re here to play football, regardless of whether we’re allowed to walk round and see a nice statue or whatever, or have a pizza with someone that we want to be with.
“I think we’re training hard, I think we’re getting the manager’s methods. We know what our jobs are.
“Those are the important things and those are what we’re doing well.”
One thing England may need to do particularly well ahead of their first knockout match at the tournament is practise penalties.
Asked if it was a case of “bring it on” in a shoot-out as far as he was concerned, Hart said: “Yeah, really.
“They’re the kind of situations where you know you have your chance to do your thing for the team.
“Hopefully, it won’t come to that.
“But if it is required for penalties to go through then so be it – that’s the route we’re going to take.”
Hart revealed he would watch videos of previous penalties by Italy’s players almost right up until kick-off on Sunday.
He added: “Obviously, I do my research. I know where all the Italian players have put their penalties.
“But I think anyone in this room could do that if you just click on youtube.”
And Hart is not only ready to save them, he wants to take one as well.
He said: “If they let me, yeah. I’d put my name forward 100 per cent.
“Penalties are a lottery but I think we’ve got some good takers and I’ll back myself in a tournament.”
England have a poor record at penalty shoot-outs, winning just one of six, and Hart joked he had been “trying not to” save his team-mates’ efforts in training, adding: “I’m going to say I’ve not saved one because everyone’s brilliant at penalties in my opinion.”
Wembley FC have signed Argentina World Cup star Claudio Caniggia and a string of former England internationals to play in next season’s FA Cup.
Graeme Le Saux, Martin Keown and Ray Parlour have all signed. David Seaman has come on board as goalkeeping coach for the Combined Counties Premier club.
The players have all been recruited by the Wembley technical adviser Terry Venables with the financial backing of club sponsors Budweiser, who are also the lead partner of the FA Cup. The aim of the arrangement is “to see how far the club could go in future seasons of the FA Cup”.