Steven Gerrard: England face challenge to qualify for World Cup

England criticism harsh - Gerrard

England captain Steven Gerrard says Roy Hodgson's side face "a big challenge" to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

However, the Liverpool midfielder is surprised by the criticism the team received after drawing 1-1 in Montenegro last month.

"Montenegro are going to be competing to win the group with us, so the stick we've had since that result surprised me," Gerrard told BBC Sport.

"We've got a really big challenge ahead of us. We want to be there."

England trail Group H leaders Montenegro by two points with four qualifiers remaining and, although Hodgson's side are unbeaten in six group games, they have won just three matches.

The top team in each of the nine European qualifying groups automatically qualify for the World Cup, with eight of the nine runners-up facing a two-legged play-off.

Substitute Dejan Damjanovic scrambled home the equaliser against the Three Lions in Podgorica on 26 March, prompting criticism of Hodgson's side.external-link

"It's daunting if you fear the challenge," said Gerrard, speaking about England's attempts to reach the World Cup in Brazil.

"If you start worrying and concern yourself with not qualifying it is daunting, there's no getting away from it."

After allowing a 1-0 lead to slip in their most recent qualifier against Montenegro, Gerrard added: "I'm a bit surprised with the reaction we've had since that game.

"It was built up as a very tough away game, but the point we got will be a big point come the end of this group.

"We played really well in the first half, completely controlled the game and should've gone on and won the game - the reaction has come from our second half performance.

"But we have to take that on the chin and move on."

Meanwhile, 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton says he "worries" about whether England can ever be successful again on the international stage.

Charlton remains the Three Lions' record goalscorer with 49 goals.

"People wonder whether we will ever win it again. I worry about that as well," said Charlton.

"It is hard to think we could win a World Cup when you see the quality of the other teams."

But former Spain midfielder Gaizka Mendieta says, if England players are nurtured in the right way, they can hit the heights that his country have reached in recent years.

Spain won the World Cup in 2010 as well as the European Championship in 2008 and 2012.

"I think it will happen," the former Valencia, Lazio and Middlesbrough player said at the Soccerex Conference in Manchester.

"England are in a transition period. But there are young players coming through, not only the ones in the senior team, but also in the academies.

"I know the Football Association are trying to build a good future with the development of the national football centre at St George's Park.

"This will take time. Spain are now enjoying winning titles, but it took us time."

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