We continue our build-up to the World Cup by focusing on England, for whom Gary Cahill will be participating in his first major international tournament…
Gary Cahill has come a very long way in a short space of time since moving to Chelsea from Bolton Wanderers in 2012, winning the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League in little over two years. The defender is now relishing the opportunity to test himself on the biggest stage of all – the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Cahill enjoyed an extremely impressive 2013/14 campaign with the Blues, forming a solid partnership with John Terry as we ended the season with the best defensive record in the Barclays Premier League.
For the national side, his relationship with Everton’s Phil Jagielka was a cornerstone of England’s success in qualifying, but he certainly isn’t taking his place in the starting 11 for granted.
‘It’s a good feeling [being seen as a guaranteed starter] but it’s not the way I see it,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I’m pushing and I feel like I’m a bigger fixture than I was, that’s a nice feeling, but I wouldn’t think of myself as an automatic starter. It’s pleasing to be more involved though.’
Cahill has never played in a major international tournament, cruelly missing out on the European Championships in 2012 after sustaining a broken jaw in a friendly ahead of the tournament.
‘It was massively frustrating because it was my first chance to go away in a major competition with England,’ he says. ‘I felt like I was in good form and pushing to be a big art of the squad. To miss out in the last friendly game at Wembley before we left, it was just shocking luck.
‘Then having to watch it from afar really hurt, but I was willing the team to do really well. I felt like I should have been there though, so it was disappointing. You still watch it as a fan, but it’s a little different because you know the lads personally. You want them to do even better, they’re great players, good guys, so there are maybe even more nerves, but you want them to win just like any other English fan.
‘It’s great to be involved in the squad this time. The World Cup is the pinnacle, a highlight in anyone’s career and it shows you’re at the top of your game. I’m looking forward to it, I had an outside chance in 2010 and had a blood clot in my arm, so it seemed like it wasn’t meant to be, so touch wood everything goes well and I can perform as best I can.’
Cahill is joined in Roy Hodgson’s squad by Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard, and with John Terry and Ashley Cole having also represented the Three Lions in previous tournaments, he hasn’t been short of advice and encouragement.
‘Yes, I have [spoken to them], and they said like anyone who has been there is no better place to play football, there’s no better feeling than being at a major competition with a national team,’ explains the 28 year old.
‘But they don’t need to tell me that, I can feel it, everything is geared up to this one thing and to be a part of that preparation is great. It’s maybe different for the other guys, who have been to World Cups and Euros, but this is my first one and I want to grasp the opportunity.’
England begin their campaign with a tricky tie against Italy on 14 June, the side who eliminated them from Euro’ 2012 at the quarter-final stage.
They then face matches against two more accomplished sides in Uruguay and Costa Rica, meaning there will be little margin for error if they are to reach the knockout stages.
‘It’s a very tough group, it will be really difficult and we also have the climate to deal with,’ explains Cahill. ‘I spoke to the Brazilian boys at Chelsea before we left and they talked about the heat and humidity being a factor, which we need to adapt to. That’s another challenge that people watching on TV might not take into consideration, it’s very different for us being out there and it will be a big test.
‘But, we have played away to Brazil, we know what the country’s like, we’ve had the atmosphere, we’re preparing in America so we should be ready to go.
‘First and foremost everyone wants to qualify from the group I think. That’s the main aim whoever you are, and then you see how far you can go. It is a difficult group, so you can’t look too far, and then ask me again after that.’