World Cup 2010: James Milner Feels The England Squad Bonded During Poor Opening Displays

Classy winger believes team spirit has improved performances.
James Milner believes England’s poor results against the USA and Algeria in their opening World Cup 2010 games have benefited the squad’s harmony and brought them closer together.

The change in morale appeared to pay dividends as the Three Lions drastically improved their performance for their crucial Group C encounter against Slovenia.

The Aston Villa midfield ace, who has been linked with a summer switch to Manchester City, provided the cross for Jermain Defoe’s goal which secured England’s place in the last 16 of the tournament.

"I think the last few days have brought everyone closer together,” Milner told a press conference.

"When things aren't going well, that's when you have to pull together and when it's make-or-break time.

"You pull together as a group and we have done that. The longer you are together, and the further you get into the tournament, you are going to come together more.

"We knew it was a massive night against Slovenia, a big game, and we knew what we needed to do. To go out there and do the business, and to be part of the performance was great."

The 24-year-old also feels that the alleviated pressure has created a calmer atmosphere in the England training camp.

"There was a more relaxed build-up to the last game [against Slovenia]. We had a good few days' training and felt very sharp," he added.

"We have had a couple of good days together, a few activities, and we were all feeling pretty happy and going into the game relaxed.

"For example, we had a quiz the other night, which was good fun. Everyone was involved and we had a good laugh. Liverpool won. We were in teams, so Jamie Carragher's knowledge of footie, and Stevie G [Gerrard], was pretty special."

Milner believes that players may be trying too hard to excel in the tournament and high-pressure games can bring out anxiety in some of the world’s best players.

"As players, you play in high-pressure situations week in, week out for your club. There are players who play in massive games - Champions League games, Premier League games each week," he added.

"Obviously the World Cup is massive as well, but I don't think it's fear. I think it is a bit of anxiety, wanting to do as well as you can.

"You maybe try the hard thing because you want to make that contribution. Maybe that's it, trying a bit too hard. But against Slovenia we moved the ball around pretty well in the first-half especially on a pretty tough pitch as well.

"I thought we played pretty well against a good team, got a good result and now we have to take that on to the Germany game."

Milner suggests the Three Lions may have started the competition in correct fashion. Convincing victories in all three group games may have created added pressure and seen their performances peak too early.

"We started slowly in the tournament and we know we are still not where we can play - but we are getting better," he said.

"I am sure we would all rather start the tournament poorly and get better and better rather than the other way around. It's down to us to keep learning what we can do better, watch the game video, and hopefully improve again at the weekend."

England will be hoping for another improved performance when they meet Germany in the last 16 on Sunday.

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