Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Gerrard will play a big role for England: Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes that England will be among the favourites to win the World Cup next summer, wherever Fabio Capello decides to play Steven Gerrard.

Benitez, who saw his adopted country and his homeland Spain qualify for the South Africa finals on the same night, knows he is walking a difficult diplomatic line when questioned about potential winners of the tournament.

But the Spaniard is sure that Gerrard will be key to England's success.

Benitez said: “England have qualified, so have Spain. In Spain I'm being asked the same question as here - who will win the final?

“There are three or four countries who have the quality and the power to win in South Africa. England is one, so is Spain!”

Gerrard is now playing on England's left side and gaining considerable praise, which was not the case when the Anfield boss used the player in an identical position a couple of seasons back.

The Reds captain scored twice in the 5-1 defeat of Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday that confirmed England's participation in next summer's finals.

Benitez said: “I have been here for years talking about Gerrard's best position. He is playing on the left for England and that is not a problem.

“It was not a problem when he played on the left for Liverpool, despite what people said.

“But he can play in the centre of midfield or as a second striker, it does not matter where he plays because he is a key man for England anywhere.

“England are doing well, winning games and scoring goals, so everyone involved wants to play and to be part of a winning side.

“Steven is playing well and scoring, so he will also be happy now, I'm sure.”

He added: “Capello is doing a fantastic job, he has a well-organised team and he is trying to keep the balance between all the players he has, particularly in the middle.

“So for Gerrard to play on the left, he knows he has some freedom to cut inside.

“Capello is doing a good job, but not just with Steven. He is doing it with the rest of the squad also.”

And on the criticism of Reds full-back Glen Johnson's defensive abilities, Benitez added: “Glen has been really good from the first day he arrived here at Liverpool, and for England you can see his offensive mentality and the quality of his crosses.

“I was surprised by the criticism of his performances, he is a very good player.”

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