Joe Cole wants to help make England proud. The out-of-contract midfielder finally made his FIFA World Cup™ entrance last night as the Three Lions clung on against Slovenia to book their place in the last 16, and a meeting with old rivals Germany in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Cole's continued absence was one of the major bones of contention raised by former Chelsea team-mate John Terry in his outburst and the 28-year-old still did not manage to make Fabio Capello's starting line-up in Port Elizabeth last night. But rather than kick up a fuss, Cole is happy to contribute in any way Capello sees fit.

After disappointing performances against the United States and Algeria proved to be such a let down, Cole knows England have some rebuilding work to do in order to reconnect with an expectant nation.

"The English people deserve to have a team they can be proud of," said Cole. "I still believe we can win this competition. We want to do it for everyone back home."

In replacing Wayne Rooney last night, Cole's task was to shore up the England midfield after they had failed to make the most of numerous opportunities, which could have saved them from an anxious finale, and another long trip given the prize for winning Group C was to remain in Rustenburg for a meeting with Ghana as it turned out.

The English people deserve to have a team they can be proud of. I still believe we can win this competition. We want to do it for everyone back home.

Joe Cole, England midfielder.

But after all that has gone before, merely remaining in the competition was the over-riding concern, with Cole admitting it had been a particularly nerve-racking affair.

"I have never been involved in such a tense game," said Cole. "I have played in Champions League finals and FA Cup finals but it was nothing like that. There was a lot of nervous energy involved."

Cole was naturally delighted to make a contribution after kicking his heels on the bench for the opening two matches. Carlo Ancelotti may have had obvious reservations about his contribution at Chelsea but he remains one of the few Englishman capable of coming up with a moment of inspiration, as Terry so pointedly remarked.

Yesterday though, his job was more defensive. Cole did not seem to mind. He was just happy to be involved.

"It is a squad game," he said. "If the manager wants me for one minute I will be there. If he wants me for 90 minutes I will be there. That is just my nature. I appreciate what people are saying back home but the guys that played were exceptional."

The team huddle at the final whistle hinted at a bond that could scarcely be imagined when Terry opened his heart on the post-Algeria summit in Cape Town. Now Cole is demanding that the feel-good factor is maintained.

"We seemed to have a bit more balance," he said. "We wanted to win and show some passion and aggression. If we all stick together we can go as far as we want in this tournament. I just believe it is our turn."