Gerrard: I want Liverpool to be big in Japan
A groin problem robbed Steven Gerrard of a place in Sven-Goran Eriksson's England squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea Japan™. On Monday 13 May of that year, the young midfielder's heart was broken with the news that he would require an operation and which ruled out him of the tournament.
At the time he said: "In the short term it's a big blow, but I want to send all the England lads my best wishes for the tournament and let them know I'll be cheering them on from home. But I need to get myself right as I wouldn't have been able to do the team justice in Japan."
The sacrifice appears to have worked out for Gerrard and now the 25-year-old has the chance to fulfill a personal aim - to play in a major tournament in Japan. In the second part of this exclusive interview with FIFA.com, he reveals his hopes for success in the FIFA Club World Championship.
FIFA.com: Steven, you are obviously enjoying your football at the moment - I believe that's a stark contrast to your days as a trainee?
Steven Gerrard: Yes, you're right on both counts. During my apprentice days, all I did was sustain injuries and miss games. I was really worried about my future. Recently, I was part of the side that beat Argentina 3-2 and six months ago I was captain of the side that won the Champions League. I couldn't be happier at the moment.
You missed out on playing in Japan in the last FIFA World Cup™. Finally you have a chance to go - how do you feel about the prospect of playing there?
I'm so hungry to be successful at this tournament. When I was sitting at home watching the 2002 World Cup, it was so frustrating. The stadiums looked amazing and I'm really looking forward to playing out there. Hopefully, we can go out there and win it. I'm looking forward to seeing the fans out there. I know we have a terrific fanbase in Japan over in Asia. It's always nice to go over and visit and to play football in front of the fans there.
What are your aims for the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005?
From a player's point of view, we have a responsibility to get good results, go to Japan and bring the trophy home. This competition is providing the team with the opportunity to get a winner's medal. As a footballer, you want to win every game you play in and this is a unique opportunity for us to become world champions. All of the players are looking forward to it as we believe that winning could provide a real confidence boost for the rest of the season.
You've experienced what it's like to be European Champions - what would it mean for you to be the world champions?
I'm sure it would be amazing. The knowledge of being part of the team that are the current European Champions is amazing, so I am sure that being world champions would be really good, if not better.
In your first match in Yokohama you will be playing Sydney FC or Deportivo Saprissa. Is there a danger of underestimating the opposition?
I don't think there is a danger of underestimating them. We don't underestimate anyone, but there is a danger of not knowing much about them and going into the game under prepared. But I can assure everyone that we will be up for the match whoever we play.
A lot of fans are worried that this trip may be tiring for the team - what do you say in response to that?
Well, winning football matches is a great habit to get into. Our form of late has been really good and we want to go to Japan and win two more matches. A lot of people are speaking about fatigue and are worried about the number of matches we are playing, but if you are winning those matches, it helps.