Euro 2012: Joe Hart insists last-eight spot not enough for England

Joe Hart yesterday rubbished suggestions it was already mission accomplished for England at the European Championship as he eyed a famous quarter-final win against Italy.

Roy Hodgson’s men may have proven their doubters wrong by topping Group D after some predicted they would not even qualify. But goalkeeper Hart claimed it was always “part of the plan” for England to take Euro 2012 by storm.

Asked if a quarter-final berth could be considered a success, the 25-year-old said: “No, because we’re not those guys – we’re winners. The whole point in coming here is not to keep people happy and keep people off our backs.

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“We’ve not come here so we can go home and not get bothered. We’ve come here to win games and be successful for us and for the country and make people proud of the English football team.

“If it doesn’t go right – I don’t like talking about that – we’d like to leave having given everything. As long as we know we’ve done everything we can, everything in our power.”

The Manchester City No 1 added: “There have been a group of people who thought we’d not do well. But I think for anyone who knew the players and knew our mentality and what we came here to do then it’s not a surprise. It’s part of the plan. It’s obviously a great achievement, but something that we set out to do at the start of the tournament.”

Euro 2012 has witnessed England’s lowest following at a tournament for decades but their best group-stage points tally since Euro 96 has led to a surge of interest in flights to Kiev and tickets for Sunday’s quarter-final.

Hart said: “Walking out against Ukraine the other day, seeing the whole sea of yellow, and that one corner of England fans, bouncing all the way through, making all that noise – it makes so much difference to you.

“And no matter how many there are, when they’re grouped together and you know where they are, your fans mean the world. Because you appreciate it’s difficult to get out here.”

England’s players have been queueing up to praise the more relaxed approach of Hodgson compared to that of former manager Fabio Capello.

Rejecting suggestions it was essentially still Capello’s team, Hart said: “At the end of the day, we’re here to play football, regardless of whether we’re allowed to walk round and see a nice statue or whatever, or have a pizza with someone that we want to be with.

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“I think we’re training hard, I think we’re getting the manager’s methods. We know what our jobs are. Those are the important things and those are what we’re doing well.”

One thing England may need to do particularly well ahead of their first knockout match at the tournament is practise penalties.

Asked if it was a case of “bring it on” in a shootout as far as he was concerned, Hart said: “Yeah, really. They’re the kind of situations where you know you have your chance to do your thing for the team.”