England take on Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday for a place in the Euro 2020 semi-finals but vice-captain Jordan Henderson says anyone underestimating Andriy Shevchenko’s men is “delusional”.
The Three Lions are overriding favourites to reach the semi-finals having beaten rivals Germany 2–0 at Wembley in Tuesday’s last-16 encounter — and are even viewed now as tournament
But Henderson and manager Gareth Southgate are not taking anything for granted.
“It was a fantastic performance but we haven’t achieved anything yet and we’ve still got a long way to go,” Henderson said. “Full focus on Ukraine. It’ll be a really difficult test and anybody that says that it won’t be are delusional, really.
“I know people say ‘well, we beat Germany’ but you can’t underestimate the importance of this game and how hard good of a team Ukraine are and how hard it will be against them.
“We’re fully prepared and fully aware of that. We just need to go out there and give absolutely everything again and hopefully that’s enough to get us through.”
Social media was awash with videos showing Henderson celebrating against Germany but the midfielder says he was “probably the biggest party pooper” after the game.
The Liverpool captain knows what it takes to be successful and England are now having to play away from Wembley for the first time at Euro 2020.
“It’s a different challenge to what we’ve been used to over the past few weeks with it being at Wembley,” Henderson told the Official England Podcast.
“Maybe the atmosphere won’t be as good or there might be less fans in the crowd and things like that, but you’ve got to try and create your own atmosphere and your intensity on the pitch.
“That’s going to be important, and just focus on the game. I think a lot of us will be used to playing without any fans, within the past year or so anyway, so it’s nothing new.
“We’ve just got to go out there, put on a real good performance and if we do that then we’ll have a good chance of getting through to the semi-final.”
Southgate echoed Henderson at his press conference, insisting his side’s focus would not be distracted by a perceived favourable route through the knockout stage, with the Czech Republic or Denmark potential semi-final opponents.
“I can’t think of a country in the world that would do that for a quarter-final and especially not a country that’s only ever been to three semi-finals in its history. It would be a big error for us to be thinking about anything else and it would be an insult to Ukraine as well.
“We watched them a lot, particularly a year ago. We could see how well they use the ball, they have got a threat with their forwards and of course they’ve got tremendous spirit. They showed all of those things against Sweden.”
England will not have the home backing they have so far enjoyed but Southgate admits the 8pm kick-off could provide some respite and has called upon his players to generate their own momentum.
“[It will be a] different experience for us but our players are used to playing all season in front of no fans and having to create their own atmosphere.
“You need leaders on the pitch in those moments and we’ve got some very good leaders in our squad so it doesn’t matter too much to us. We know it’s a fantastic stadium to play in, a great venue, a great arena, an historic arena and we’re looking forward to playing the game.”
“I don’t think it will be as hot as the game with Croatia. We’ll be playing in the evening here which will give some respite. We are definitely used to handling those conditions but it will be important to use the ball well for certain.”