Upson: Adversity brought us together
Defender Matthew Upson is confident the rumour and speculation surrounding the England camp in recent days will simply serve to strengthen their resolve.
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Upson and his team-mates turned in a committed display at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth yesterday to belatedly launch their World Cup campaign and book their place in the second round.
Their 1-0 victory over Group C rivals Slovenia came after former captain John Terry sparked talk of rifts within the camp with his outspoken comments in the wake of disappointing performances and results in the opening two games against the United States and Algeria.
However, there was no lack of unity on the pitch last night, and certainly not after the final whistle when manager Fabio Capello joined his players in their celebrations, and Upson believes a stronger bond has been formed.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "You can use all those things and use all the rumours and all the accusations as fuel to improve and succeed and get tighter together.
"That's something we have improved on as a team and I think we can still get better at it, as we can in a lot of other areas.
"It's the key to winning, for me. Forget everything else, tactics, the lot - it is about you as human beings and people and what you are willing to commit and your attitude, and I thought we did that really well."
England's joy was partially tempered by the news of the USA's late winner against the Algerians in Pretoria, a goal which saw them top the group and pitch Capello's men into a potentially epic battle with old rivals Germany in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
But West Ham defender Upson is not unduly concerned at the prospect.
Asked if it mattered his side had not won the group, he replied: "To me it doesn't, personally.
"Some people say you need the best route to the final, which you would agree with - you want to play as weak teams as you can.
"But eventually, you are going to have to beat the best teams and Sunday will be a great opportunity for us to go into another situation where it is a win-only opportunity.
"That doesn't bother me."
Upson, of course, was in the team because of Ledley King's persisting fitness problems and Jamie Carragher's suspension, and he knows he may have a fight on his hands to line up against the Germans.
But whether he makes it or not, the 31-year-old will be able to reflect back upon an eventful World Cup finals debut, which saw him make a nervous start, but grow into his role.
Indeed, he contributed a vital late block to preserve England's hard-earned clean sheet as Slovenian made a final desperate push.
He said: "It was just an opportunity to win the ball. It had been flicked on and knocked down inside of me, and it's a reaction more than anything.
"You don't think, you just see it and you make the play for it. I got there, thankfully, and we saw it through.
"It was kind of straight into the cauldron, really and difficult circumstances in a way, but in others it was an opportunity to shine and to step up.
"I was pleased with the way things went and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win."
Terry and Wayne Rooney had earlier been denied by keeper Samir Handanovic, who pushed the striker's effort against the post, and England created more than enough chances to have won the game comfortably.
However, they had to endure a nervous final few minutes before eventually getting their reward.
Upson added: "I am sure it's a lot easier on the pitch, the blood pressure. You don't feel it, you just focus in on what is coming at you next.
"But I can imagine watching it is not a pleasant experience.
"We didn't quite kill the game off, maybe, how we would have liked. We created some good opportunities.
"But as long as we are creating those opportunities and our players are getting in there and in the right positions and are hungry to score, which they were, it's great for the team."