Gerrard: Joe Hart will become the best goalkeeper in the world

Steven Gerrard
England No.1 Joe Hart (left) and his skipper Steven Gerrard. Photo: PA

England skipper Steven Gerrard believes Joe Hart will become "the best keeper in the world" and will have a key role to play in tomorrow's Euro 2012 quarter-final with Italy in the Olympic Stadium.

Gerrard gave his glowing testament as England attempt to reach their first major semi-final since Euro 96 when they lost on penalties to Germany.

The Liverpool midfielder has seen Hart grow in stature since becoming established as the England number one since the 2010 World Cup.

Gerrard said: "I think we have got one of the best keepers in the world in Joe and I think eventually he will go on to be the best in the world.

"His performances so far in this tournament have been fantastic and he is going to be one of our key players tomorrow night.

"We need Joe to perform at his maximum because at some stage in the game or in extra-time or if it goes to penalties, he is going to be called upon to make a fantastic save.

"We all think we can do it."

Gerrard is aware of the importance of himself and Scott Parker getting to grips with the midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele de Rossi and Claudio Marchisio.

He said: "Italian have some fantastic midfielders. Pirlo has proved he is one of the best midfielders out there.

"De Rossi can see a long pass and score goals. Marchisio is a bit of a different player and runs into the box more.

"But they are all threats and it is up to Scott and myself to control the midfield because they are three superb players. If they get control of the game, we are in trouble."

Gerrard has urged his England team-mates to "seize the moment" and end their quarter-final hoodoo - they were beaten in three successive tournaments at that juncture under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

He said: "In previous tournaments we just haven't shown what we are capable of. But our performances are getting stronger in this competition.

"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 knows England will have to contain Mario Balotelli if he is recalled to the starting line-up by the Italians.

The controversial Manchester City man came off the bench to score against the Republic of Ireland on Monday, and is rarely far from the action.

Gerrard said: "We all know about Mario, we watch him week in and week out in the Premier League. 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 tomorrow night."

Head coach Roy Hodgson will not change his approach tomorrow night compared to that demonstrated in the group stages.

He said: "I'm not so sure you need a different mentality because in the group there is always the element of knockout involved in, if you don't win, you could be out.

"We must make sure we are ready to go out on the pitch and do what we set out to do."

Hodgson also reiterated his determination for England to rid themselves of the statistic of failing to beat a major nation in a tournament since the 1966 World Cup.

He said: "All stats that can be turned against you, that make things look negative regarding the nation's football, you are anxious to do something about.

"But you don't change stats by talking. You do it on the field."