England open their 2014 World Cup campaign against Italy on Saturday and Gary Cahill, preparing for his first major tournament at international level, is determined to embrace the experience.
Cahill is expected to start at the heart of Roy Hodgson’s defence in Manaus having played the full 90 minutes of the final warm-up game, a 0-0 draw against Honduras in Miami at the weekend.
‘There are no bigger games or tournaments than this,’ he said. ‘It is my first tournament so it is new for me but as well as the pressure being there, which is clear, I want to try and go out and enjoy it.
‘When you are enjoying your football I think that is when you play your best football so I just try and prepare the way I do week in, week out in the Premier League and look to enjoy this tournament and give everything I’ve got.’
Hodgson has selected a young group of players, particularly in the attacking positions, with the likes of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling all pushing for a place in the starting 11 against Italy.
Cahill believes the energy and youthfulness within the group will be a useful outlet during their time in Brazil.
‘For me, one of the worst things when coming up against players is pace,’ said the Chelsea defender.
‘It is the same for anyone. As well as the quality we have got, pace is dangerous all the time so as a defender it pushes you a few yards back because you can’t afford to be playing a high line against the likes of these lads that we have got in our squad.
‘Hopefully it will be a great piece of armour for us heading into this World Cup.’
After a wonderful season for the Blues, Cahill goes into the tournament full of confidence, but he, along with the rest of England’s defence, is likely to be severely tested on Saturday.
One of those players he will be tasked with keeping tabs on is Mario Balotelli, a striker capable of winning a game on his own.
‘He’s got potential to stick it into the top corner from 30 yards,’ added Cahill. ‘He’s an unpredictable player but on his day obviously one of the best.
‘I played against him a couple of times at City and he’s been tough. I played against him another time when he came off after 60 or 70 minutes.
‘He is unpredictable. At times he can be world class. But he’s certainly one to watch out for.’