Carlton Cole has admitted he has to take his game to "a higher level" to have a realistic chance of representing England at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The West Ham United striker has featured in five successive squads and is included in Fabio Capello's plans for Saturday's home friendly with Slovenia and Wednesday's qualifier with Croatia at Wembley.
A positive result against Slaven Bilic's team will guarantee England's spot at South Africa 2010. But Cole is aware he has to continue to make the kind of improvement that has been a feature of his game since the arrival at Upton Park of Gianfranco Zola last season.
The former Chelsea player told Press Association Sport: "I feel I need to take my game to the next level to have a realistic chance of making the World Cup. I feel I've got to take my game to a higher level than I am playing now.
I need to take my game to the next level to have a realistic chance of making the World Cup. Every day in training I'm trying to improve.
"I'm trying my best. Every day in training I'm trying to improve on different aspects of my game and I know I'm far from the finished article. But hopefully this season will be another stepping stone for me to get up the ladder.
"It's World Cup year and all the strikers here are top-quality strikers and they know what to expect. They have been in this position before. This is the first time I've been involved in something like this. I am happy to be involved and it is a great experience for me."
Cole is also aware he must be more prolific in terms of his goal ratio if he is to challenge the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey for a regular starting role with England. "I want to take every chance when it comes and take it with both hands really," he said.
"I base my game on my physical presence in and around the box, my presence in the attacking third, unsettling defenders. But I know I've got to score more goals to become an England regular. I am a striker and, although I know I bring something different to the play, I think if I can chip in with a few more goals, I can get up there and make myself a serious contender."
Cole is full of praise for the contribution his former Chelsea playing colleague Zola has made to his development. He said: "Gianfranco Zola has been brilliant for me. My game has come on leaps and bounds.
Gianfranco Zola has been brilliant for me. My game has come on leaps and bounds. He has given me the confidence to do well.
"He has helped me in every aspect of my game, and given me the confidence to go out there and do well. Mr Capello tells me what he wants me to do and what to improve on, and I go back to West Ham and every day I train with Gianfranco and he helps to get the best out of me.
"Hopefully I can get better and better. I'm improving in every game I play with West Ham and my confidence is growing higher every game and I am up for it at the moment."
Cole impressed as a substitute in England's 2-2 draw with Holland in Amsterdam last month. "I came on and set my stall out early," he remarked. "Everyone was asking me if I was nervous but that wasn't the case really. I took everything in my stride.
"I'm playing with some good players with England. I've played with a few of them beforehand so I know what they can do, and they know what I can do, so it was easy settling into training and playing the game as well."