Gerrard: England must win World Cup qualifying group

The Three Lions captain stressed the importance of topping their group and avoiding the playoffs as they attempt to qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil
England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has urged the team to win their group and qualify for the 2014 World Cup without the lottery of the play-offs.

Roy Hodgson's men face Brazil on Wednesday at Wembleyin a friendly, however the man named England's Player of the Year is thinking ahead and insisting every member of the squad must gear their performances towards the meeting with Montenegro on March 26.

England currently sit second in Group H two points behind Montenegro and three ahead of Poland, who have a game in hand, in a format that only sees the top team qualify automatically, leaving Gerrard focused on the task facing the Three Lions in 2013.

"Nothing will be acceptable except us winning this group," said Gerrard.

"I'm certainly not underestimating where we are and how much there is to do. I think there is still a lot of hard work to do, that's for sure. We don't want to end up in the play-offs.

"To play Brazil at Wembley is fantastic but there is a little bit in the mind that is already just waiting for the Montenegro game. It is going to be the key game, there is no getting away from that. You can't help but think about it.

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"It was a really tough game [against Montenegro] last time and this one will be the same. We've all got to stand up and be counted. But I look at the squad for Brazil and I think you'll agree its probably the strongest squad that Roy has named.

"If we can keep everyone fit on that list of 25 then I'm really confident we'll get through. I look around at the players and that gives me confidence we can go there and get a big win. And if we get three points in Montenegro, it puts us back in the driving seat."

The box-to-box midfielder reserved special praise for Ashley Cole who will receive his 100th cap for the national side against the Selecao, joining Gerrard and five other players who have passed the century mark.

"It's very important. If the crowd take a moment to think about what he [Cole] has given in an England shirt over the last 10 to 12 years its been phenomenal. He has probably been the most consistent player I've played with," added the England skipper.

"It's going to be Ashley's night and the players are certainly going to show him a hell of a lot of support. Let's hope the fans do as well. He has been the best left-back in the world and we've been lucky to have him. I think the supporters realise that."