You’ll be up against Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who are two of the world’s best centre backs. A good challenge?
They are two amazing defenders and they’ve had great experience over their careers in big matches. Obviously I have been fortunate enough to play against them before and as a striker I want to be playing against the best centre backs in the world and those two are definitely up there. But this game is not just about me and two centre backs, it is about England versus Italy and we feel like we have got a great belief in the team, a great strength in the squad. There are a lot of things that can happen in the final and we have to make sure we are on the right side of it.
Made plenty of history. All that’s left is a trophy? Do you get a sense of the expectation?
That is the challenge now. We’ve been knocking down barriers along the way but we started this tournament with an aim to win it and we have this opportunity tomorrow night. To see the fans on the street and the reception we had when we pulled up to the hotel and as we were leaving St George’s Park, it shows us just how big of an occasion it is. In Russia we were over there and in our own bubble, we could see videos of what it was like at home but we couldn’t really experience it ourselves. Even this camp we have been on to the next one, on to the next one, just focusing on the next game which we have done for the final. It is great to see the reception we are getting. We know how much it means to the English fans all over the country, so we are proud to be representing them, hopefully we can do them proud tomorrow night.
How are you preparing?
We’ve gone through the same preparation as we have done the last few games. We’ve had the same amount of time in between games in terms of recovering and preparing and to work on the training field. As soon as the game finished in midweek it was just full focus on to this one. We have gone through the same strategy and routine that we have done before. There is an extra level of excitement and anticipation but that is all part and parcel of playing in a major tournament. A lot of us have played at the highest level in our club careers, a few of us had the opportunity at the World Cup a few a years ago. It is just about staying calm, staying as relaxed as you can and just looking forward to being out there and enjoying the moment as much as you can.
How have you peaked in this tournament? Did you learn from 2018 World Cup?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have scored three or four goals in the group stage and got off to a fantastic start and gone from there but it was about the energy. I felt in the World Cup, with such an amazing start, with scoring in the last minute against Tunisia, a lot of energy was used up because of the emotion. Panama was the same. We had an amazing game, I scored a hat-trick and there was a lot of talk, a lot of mental energy. Colombia was the same. Not just physically, but maybe mentally I lost a little bit towards the latter stages. So going into this one with more experience, it was just about not getting too carried away, whether I score or don’t score. Obviously we were winning games which was the most important thing so it was just about staying in the moment, not getting carried away and knowing that as a player and as a team we were on the right track. Thankfully it’s worked out pretty well and I guess that’s all part of the learning curve of playing in major tournaments and gaining that experience. Hopefully I’ve got enough left to finish the job tomorrow.
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Not been many mind games so far?
I don’t think so. Obviously that’s the personality of a lot of the players in the squad – they’re humble, they’re respectful. I think we put a real focus and determination to win. We’ve shown that in the last tournament we played and in this tournament, knocking down barriers that have been there for our country for a long, long time. I feel like in modern football nowadays there isn’t so much mind games before and getting too hyped or out of control. We have a real focus and a real vision of where we want to be and without that and without our winning mentality we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.
There are a lot of club captains in the squad, like Henderson and Coady. Does that help you in terms of leadership?
Yeah, that’s a massive strength of ours as a squad. As captain it’s not an easy job but it’s definitely made easier when you have leaders around you. It’s not just one voice, we have many voices, like the manager said, that help our during games, before games and after games. That’s a huge part of a successful team and, of course, we wouldn’t be where we are without all those players. I think they’ve given a real good vision for the younger players in the squad. Every big game you play, you want as much experience as possible and we definitely have that. It’s going to play an important role tomorrow and in the future as well.