John Terry is confident England can put their penalty shoot-out nightmares behind them at the 2010 World Cup finals and indicated he would volunteer to take a spot-kick despite his own personal penalty trauma. The Chelsea defender famously missed the spot-kick that would have given his club victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final of 2008, slipping at the crucial moment in Moscow.
He ranks it as the lowest point of his career, alongside losing to Portugal, also on penalties, at the World Cup quarter-finals in Germany in 2006. Considering England were also knocked out by the same method at the World Cup in both 1998 and 1990 - and went out on penalties at Euro 96 and Euro 2004 - you could have forgiven Terry for passing up the opportunity to shoot from 12 yards in South Africa.
But, having guided his team to the finals with eight victories in eight qualifying games, the centre-half says he is made of sterner stuff. "Of course I would volunteer, no doubt," he said yesterday at an event organised by England team sponsors Nationwide Building Society. "OK, I stepped up and missed one for Chelsea in a massive tournament but at the same time I'm not going to shirk away from any challenges thrown at me in my career. I want to step up to the plate and if that means taking a penalty I will do."
Terry's bravery will remind some fans of England legend Stuart Pearce who missed a spot-kick in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany but roared back to score one in Euro 96 six years later. The picture of Pearce's face, etched with relief and joy after hitting the net against Spain, has become iconic. And Terry believes eventually he will have a similar moment. "That's what you want to do and you want to wait for the right time," he said. "At Chelsea there were players ahead of me in the Community Shield [this season's shoot-out victory over United] so I wasn't in the mix that time and it hasn't happened yet. But on another day who knows - it's down to the manager. I will certainly put my hand up.
"We'll wait and see if it happens because Frank Lampard is first choice and we've got Stevie Gerrard and Wayne Rooney too. There's probably five players well in front of me so I think I'd be out of the first five. But I'd certainly put myself forward, I've got no reason not to. Hopefully this time it will be our turn to win one." Terry believes England can be real contenders in South Africa and expects to prove it to fans in the Middle East if plans to stage a friendly between England and Brazil in Doha on November 14 come to fruition.
The fixture has not yet been confirmed by the English Football Association, who are said to be waiting for final documents to be completed, but all the signs are that the prestigious match will go ahead on a date previously set aside for a World Cup play-off match. Terry said: "The manager has tended to play big teams in friendly matches and I wouldn't be surprised if we do play Brazil in November. It will be a great test. We've had them at Wembley before and gave them a good run for their money in a 1-1 draw.
"It's important to test yourself against the best. We've done that against France, Spain and Holland so it will be good to see how far we have come. "You always know Brazil will be among the favourites at the World Cup. They have that arrogance and confidence about them that no matter what happens they stick together and make sure they get their way through the groups. But that's what we've been doing and my message to the England fans now is they need to really enjoy the atmosphere around England at the moment. We are playing well.
"The excitement is already building and if we do go on to win it, and don't forget there are still an awful lot of improvements to be made, I think the whole of England will probably come to a standstill for three or four days. "But I haven't dreamt about it yet because we've only just qualified. We have to realise there are still improvements to make as individuals and as a collective - the manager has made that clear.
"We have a chance to work on those things in the next few games and we'll do that. And if we get a chance to test ourselves against Brazil it will be valuable." England still have two more qualifiers to play in the World Cup campaign, away to Ukraine and home to Belarus, and Terry added: "I want us to get 10 out of 10 in the qualifiers and go into the finals in the best possible form." It is all a big contrast to 2008 when England were beaten by Croatia at Wembley to miss out on the European champ- ionships. But Terry feels enormous progress has been made under Fabio Capello, a fact now appreciated by the England's supporters.
"When we were playing badly the fans let us know about it and the players felt really bad. But this is the time for us to turn around and say thanks to the fans - for their travelling, all their hard work, the money they pay for flights and tickets," he said. "I'm sure there will be thousands in South Africa determined to get tickets and be there supporting their country. If we can give back the kind of performances and results we have done in this campaign then we can put a smile on their faces. We owe them."