Hart on defence and why ‘balanced’ England are ready

Date published: Friday 10th June 2016 11:46

Joe Hart: Insists England are ready for Russia opener

Joe Hart: Insists England are ready for Russia opener

Joe Hart has the utmost confidence in England’s much-scrutinised defence, even if the options are fewer than tournaments gone by.

The Three Lions’ Euro 2016 opener against Russia is now tantalisingly close, with the squad jetting down to Marseille on Friday afternoon for the crucial Group B clash.

How Roy Hodgson shoehorns his host of attacking options into the starting line-up will form much of the pre-match conversation, so too the underlying concerns over backline.

A number of former internationals have suggested it could prove England’s undoing but goalkeeper Hart, like centre-back Chris Smalling, has expressed his belief that they will hold firm over the next month.

“I feel it’s very balanced and very comfortable,” he said.

“Maybe because the numbers aren’t there, but the seven potential defenders picked that are in the squad, and obviously with Eric as well able to slot in, are really high-level players.

“With England, you usually only get a couple of days together, but we are now here for a couple of weeks and we feel really together and comfortable with each other – we definitely do.

“There is a good link between the midfield and the defence and we feel strong.

“I don’t really know what criticism you are referring to, but that’s always going to happen. Someone’s going to get scrutinised, something is going to be scrutinised.

“The important thing to me is that the coaching staff and players, we believe in the players that are here.

“We feel confident and comfortable as a unit and we are ready.”

Three weeks of preparations have the squad physically and mentally ready for the Stade Velodrome clash, with reams of analysis meaning England cannot use a lack of a knowledge about Russia as an excuse.

Hart also rejected the notion that there could be a lack of clarity due to the number of options and formations available to Hodgson on Saturday.

“We are very clear of all the different ways that we play,” he said. “When we want to bring them in and when we don’t want to bring them in.

“Under small instruction from Roy, we can chop and change in a game.

“We work together as a unit and we are definitely ready for Saturday.”

Hart is to make his fourth major tournament a success and was not keen to dwell on past mistakes, with the goalkeeper’s focus on victory this weekend palpable.

The goalkeeper’s mental strength is impressive but he too spends time with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who was introduced to the England squad before the World Cup in Brazil.

Renowned for his work with Olympic athletes, he linked up with the national team in Chantilly on Thursday ahead of flying to the south of France.

“He is a good addition, a fresh addition and he is there if you need him,” Hart said.

“I am open, but it is more of a group thing. We sit down as a group, work together and with all the meetings we do, try to get the best out of each other.”

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