Euro 2012: Steven Gerrard wary of Italy's midfield threat

England captain Steven Gerrard says failure to get to grips with Italy's midfield in Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final is likely to see them bow out of the tournament.

Andrea Pirlo has stood out for the Italians so far, but Gerrard warned that he is not the only threat.

Gerrard said: "Myself and Scott Parker need to control the midfield.

"Italy have superb players in the middle of the park and if they take control we will be in trouble."

Pirlo, Thiago Motta and Claudio Marchisio impressed as the Italians drew both their opening games against Spain and Croatia in Group C.

But manager Cesare Prandelli played a narrow 4-4-2 formation in the victory over the Republic of Ireland in their final group game.

Gerrard says that whatever the formation of line-up, the Italians will be full of quality in the midfield at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Like Italy, England are also unbeaten in Euro 2012 following a hard-fought draw against France in their Group D opener before beating Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine to top the standings.

However, Gerrard was confident England had improved on their performances in the knockout stages of major tournaments in the recent past and said the last-eight meeting was a "50-50 game".

"In previous tournaments we just haven't shown what we are capable of. But our performances are getting stronger in this competition," Gerrard added.

"That is what gives me the belief and confidence that we can end this hoodoo that people talk about.

"I get told that not many of the current players have figured in quarter-finals, but they are all big-game players and are aware of what is required.

"It is important they seize the moment, seize the opportunity, because from experience, I know they don't come around very often.

"It is important nobody leaves anything out on the pitch and show the critics we are good enough to compete at this level."

Gerrard was also wary of the threat posed by the volatile and unpredictable Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

"We all know about Mario, we watch him week in and week out in the Premier League," Gerrard said. "He's an excellent and dangerous player.

"He is someone we will have to take extra care of if he is chosen, and we will have to try and contain him."

But Gerrard feels Balotelli's City team-mate Joe Hart could have an even bigger influence for England.

"We have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he will go on to be the best in the world," Gerrard said.

"His performances have been fantastic and he will be one of our key players against Italy. We need Joe to perform at his maximum level and he will be called upon to make a fantastic save in the match, maybe in injury-time or penalty shoot-out and we trust him to do that."