Cole out to end last-eight jinx with England
A month after achieving one great European ambition with his club, Ashley Cole will seek to move within reach of a similar goal with his country when England face Italy in their Euro 2012 quarter-final in Kiev on Sunday.
The 31-year-old left back, playing in his fourth major tournament quarter-final, will make his 98th appearance for his country and believes Roy Hodgson’s team have the potential to enable him to earn his 100th cap in the final on July 1.
England’s most-capped full back lies sixth in the overall list for international appearances behind five former captains, goalkeeper Peter Shilton (125), David Beckham (115), Bobby Moore (108), Bobby Charlton (106) and Billy Wright (105).
First, however, Cole has to end his own last-eight jinx by playing in a winning England team in a quarter-final for the first time.
A regular member of the England side for a decade, he was in the teams that bowed out in the last eight of the 2004 European Championship, when they lost to hosts Portugal on penalties, and in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup quarter-finals when they lost Brazil and Portugal, the latter on penalties.
But after winning the Champions League with Chelsea on May 19, when defensive resilience and team spirit enabled them to overcome Bayern Munich, Cole believes similar attributes can carry England to a last-four meeting with Germany.
“This is my fourth quarter-final and I have bad memories of the others,” he told the BBC. “So, I want to look back at those and think about what I did and what could help me for this one.
“It is a different game against a great team, but the spirits are high and the lads are buzzing for the game. I am confident. We know it will be a tough game, but they say dreams come true and hopefully this can be one of my dreams.”
Despite periods when intense tabloid attention to his private life may have affected him, Cole has always been one of England’s most consistent performers.
His form for club and country established him as one of the outstanding left-backs in the world and an automatic choice for many people’s world XI.
His athleticism, technical ability and speed were outstanding at Euro 2004 when, in a tense and dramatic quarter-final against Portugal, he succeeded in quelling the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo and initiating many attacks.
The same qualities shone through in his performances last season for Chelsea as they battled through against the odds to claim the European Cup.
“With most English lads – and you can see it in this team – we’re like 11 bulldogs who will never give up, who will always work for each other and basically die on the pitch for each other,” said Cole. “So far, it seems to be working.”