Steven Gerrard has revealed the "winning mentality" instilled into the England team by head coach Fabio Capello during his two-and-a-half years in charge.
Capello took over a side out of sorts after they had failed to qualify for the UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Then-coach Steve McClaren was portrayed in the media as "the wally with the brolly" while England looked as if they were going nowhere.
But Gerrard noticed a change almost from the first time Capello took command for the friendly international against Switzerland at Wembley in February 2008. Now they will aim for FIFA World Cup™ glory this summer full of confidence after topping their qualifying group.
Gerrard said: "From when the manager first took over, there has been a change. I think every player has gone on record to say that it was a tough time to play for England a couple of years ago as there was pressure. The manager has given us a winning mentality and confidence."
Gerrard, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday, is refusing to look too far ahead but is confident England can top their initial group.
He said: "I think we can get out of the group as winners and then we take the last-16 challenges on. I do not really want to look any further ahead but we have a good mix of experience and fresh talented youngsters."
Gerrard, Capello and the remainder of the England squad flew into South Africa this morning nine days ahead of their group opener with the United States.
The 23-man party had received the welcome news yesterday of Capello committing his future to England for the next two years through to the UEFA EURO 2012.