Joe Hart has no doubt over England’s ability to succeed at Euro 2016 if they can display the ruthless edge lacking during their early World Cup exit two years ago.
Roy Hodgson’s men headed to Brazil more in hope than expectation, but few could have foreseen the Three Lions being dumped out with a match remaining in their group.
Narrow defeats to Italy and Uruguay condemned England to a first group-stage exit on the world stage since 1958, but the Football Association stuck with under-fire Hodgson and an impressive response has been the reward.
England cruised through European Championship qualification with a 100 per cent record and have lost just two of 21 matches since returning from Brazil, racking up friendly wins against France, Germany and Portugal over that period.
It is a fine run Hart is confident of continuing against Russia on Saturday, although the England goalkeeper knows they can ill-afford the toothlessness displayed during the 2014 World Cup.
“Playing to a decent standard sometimes isn’t enough – we have got to be really ruthless (at) both ends of the pitch,” he said of the lessons learned in Brazil.
“It’s an obvious thing, that doesn’t differ from Premier League football or Capital One Cup football, but it’s the thing that probably stood out the most in the two games we lost in the World Cup.
“We could have walked off easily with two victories but we didn’t and that’s the most important thing.”
Hart is sure England can go far in France if they are on “the right end of the key moments” and was focused, if curt at times, during yesterday’s press conference previewing the Group B opener.
His desire to succeed was palpable and the 29-year-old believes a bold young group can thrive over the next month.
“It’s exciting, fresh, there’s a lot of youngsters so they are probably going to be a lot more comfortable than maybe other teams,” Hart said.
“But there’s a good bond right the way through. I think it’s well known that Wayne (Rooney) is at, I don’t know if he’s our oldest player, 30 years old such a key part of the squad, he’s accessible to all the players, right the way through.
“You look at him doing the interview with Marcus (Rashford), that’s just how Wayne is.
“There’s definitely a connection, age doesn’t really factor into this team.
“We are one and we’re all pushing in the right direction.”
Only James Milner and captain Rooney have more international experience to their name than the 59-cap goalkeeper, for whom this is a fourth major tournament.
“You’ve got to enjoy it,” Hart said.
“I’m a kid who loves football – well, I’m not a kid any more, I’m a slightly grown man, but I love football.
“I’d be watching it as a huge England fan if I wasn’t involved.
“I’ve got one of those lucky spots where I might even be potentially representing my country on Saturday in a European tournament, so I’m going to enjoy it.
“I’m 29, I’ve hopefully got a lot of football ahead of me.
“I love playing football, I love being around guys that want to play football – that’s a really good thing about this squad and we’re enjoying each other as a unit.
“The only way we’re ultimately going to enjoy this tournament is success so, like I say, that starts Saturday.”