Arsenal midfielder Theo Walcott has claimed England stand a good chance of a strong performance at the European Championships and, on their day, can "beat anyone".
Several fans and experts believe England dodged a major bullet by avoiding defending champions Spain in the quarterfinal. The narrow 1-0 win against co-hosts Ukraine, in the final group stage game, meant England topped Group D and will face Group C runners-up Italy. Nevertheless, the 23 year old midfielder insisted his side had nothing to fear, even if they had to play Spain.
"Did we want to avoid Spain? I think it doesn't matter. Every team you come against is going to be challenging. Playing the world champions, the European champions, is always going to be difficult but we will take anyone at this moment in time," ESPN quoted Walcott as saying.
Walcott added that not only would Italy be as difficult as Spain but the English were playing with confidence.
"The Italians will be tough but we've got some great players in that dressing room and I think we can go far. I feel we believe we could beat anyone the way we are playing as well. f we play to the best of our ability, who knows what can happen? Anything can happen. We defend well, we always know we can score goals so, if we keep clean sheets, we will definitely win," he added.
"I think we need to relax, mentally have a break, and the extra day by playing on Sunday is going to help everyone. Our target is to take it game by game and it's working so far. Everyone is doing their jobs right and trust each other which is important," he stressed.
Meanwhile, England boss Roy Hodgson has started to prepare his players for penalty shootouts. The former West Bromwich Albion boss realises they face the possibility of spot kicks from this point in the tournament and clearly wants to leave nothing to chance. He will also be aware of a shootout jinx that has dogged England - they have won only one (against Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 96) of six games from that position. They have lost to Germany (semifinals of Euro 96), Portugal (quarterfinal of Euro 2004). West Germany (semifinal of 1990 World Cup), Argentina (first knock-out round of 1998 World Cup) and Portugal, again, (quarterfinal of 2006 World Cup).
"We've lost so many important matches on penalties that we know it's a national phobia. When you are working with the England national team, the past is always going to weigh heavily - everything we do today is being compared with something that happened in the past," said Hodgson, according to a Goal.com report.