Blackburn's New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen is not surprised England have looked jaded at the FIFA World Cup™ - but is not expecting them to admit it. England have failed to convince in their opening two matches in South Africa, labouring to draws against the United States and Algeria.
One of the reasons put forward for their below-par performances is that players could be tired after a draining Premier League season and Nelsen believes that theory has credence. The 32-year-old defender said: "I think it is a good point. The English players will never admit it but it is mentally and physically the hardest league in the world. It is so draining.
"Inevitably all the players around the world that have come down with injuries are generally Premier League players. The English players are all proud enough not to say it, and will be politically correct and say this is a World Cup.
"It is very tough. These guys at the top, especially those in the Champions League, play so many games a season it is incredible. But I still think England have a great chance to win this."
Nelsen is preparing for his second game of the tournament as New Zealand face defending champions Italy in Nelspruit tomorrow. The All Whites are in good heart after a last-gasp equaliser secured a draw in their Group F opener against Slovakia on Tuesday but few are giving them much chance of an upset.
Yet after Italy were held by Paraguay in their first game, the greater pressure is on Marcello Lippi's men. Nelsen added: "The bigger pressure for us was the game against Bahrain in Wellington - in front of our own fans, packed house, must-win game. It showed against Slovakia none of them are worried now, nobody showed any signs of nerves.
"It could be Italy, it could be Brazil, it could be the greatest team in the history of sport - these guys are just confident in who they are and what they have prepared for. We have prepared as well as we can and we have put ourselves in a very good position after the first game. Saying we have nothing to lose is a bit reckless but, no matter what happens in the game, the boys will be up for it."
New Zealand's point against Slovakia means the Kiwis will still have a chance of reaching the second round regardless of the result at the Mbombela Stadium.
Coach Ricki Herbert has confirmed his team will be unchanged from the one that impressed in Rustenburg last time out. Combative midfielder Tim Brown had hoped to prove his fitness to feature but will not be risked despite making a good recovery.
"It will be the same team," Herbert said. "Tim is part of the squad now, which is great. He has done what he needed to do and I don't think we would have any hesitation if we needed to use him now. Paraguay is probably a better target for him but he has made some great strides. I wouldn't say he is 100% but he is a lot better than he was."