Friday 22 June 2012
Glen Johnson believes Steven Gerrard has taken his game to a higher level since he was handed the England captaincy for UEFA Euro 2012.
Johnson picked out his Liverpool team-mate Gerrard as England's most outstanding player so far as they prepare to face Italy in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
Gerrard was a key figure in England's first three games, setting up goals for Joleon Lescott, Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney as Roy Hodgson's side topped Group D ahead of France.
"Steven has been a fantastic player for many, many years, but with the armband I think he feels he needs to step up just that tiny bit more, and I think he's done it more than anyone so far," said Johnson.
"We know we have got some fantastic players in the side who can hurt any defence"
- Glen Johnson
If England beat Italy in Kiev on Sunday, it will be the first time in 16 years that they have reached the semi-finals of a major tournament.
"Any team in the tournament has got a chance of winning it," added Johnson.
"The first objective was to get out of the group. We did that very well by winning the group, so now it’s a one-off game and in a one-off game you can beat anyone.
"We will just try to set out to be hard to beat and then we know we have got some fantastic players in the side who can hurt any defence."
Much of the spotlight will be on Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli in the build-up to the game.
Manchester United striker Rooney scored the winning goal in England's final group game against Ukraine, while Manchester City's Balotelli was on target as Italy beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0 to take second place in Group C.
"They're two totally different guys, but both with immense talent, and the same goal for their team," said England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who plays with Balotelli at Manchester City.
"Wayne's fantastic and Mario is exceptional too. It will be good for everyone to watch those two players doing their thing on Sunday."