The loss of three members of a likely starting lineup – Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard – have undermined England's preparations for UEFA EURO 2012, but winger Stewart Downing is confident that Roy Hodgson's men can make a positive impression in Poland and Ukraine.
UEFA.com: Can you sum up England's preparations?
Stewart Downing: The [warm-up] games have been really good; we've had two good results. We're obviously disappointed to lose a couple of players, but it's an opportunity for someone else to come in and stamp their mark on the team. Apart from that, it's gone really well.
UEFA.com: Despite all the injuries, England have beaten Norway and Belgium recently – is there an air of optimism in the camp?
Downing: It's certainly very relaxed. The players took confidence from the last two results, and most teams have had their injuries and suspensions, so we've all got to deal with it and I think we've done that very well. Players have come in and just got on with the job, and we're certainly very confident for the first game.
UEFA.com: It's two wins out of two for Roy Hodgson as England manager, although goals have been hard to come by – how are you working to rectify that?
Downing: The manager will just see it as two results. If you do that in the tournament, you'd be into a quarter-final. So some good things came out of the games; we're still working on the things we're wanting to do, the manager's ideas, and we've seen that in glimpses.
We look like we're going to be hard to beat and break down, and we can cause problems on the counterattack. Hopefully we can do that against the French and whoever's in front of us after that.
UEFA.com: You play France first, what do you expect from them?
Downing: I don't really know, to be honest. It's obviously a tough one; they've got some really good players, especially in attack, but I'm confident we can get a really good result against them. They'll have their weaknesses, and I'm sure they're looking at us thinking we'll have our weaknesses, so let's see how it pans out on the day. We're confident in our own abilities.
UEFA.com: Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games – how much of a boost is it knowing he'll be back for the third?
Downing: It's great, but if we get two good results I'm sure Wayne will probably be thinking, 'How am I going to get in the team?'. That could easily happen. Wayne is a great player and a top lad as well, but if we do well he's got a fight on his hands to get in the team, like we all have. It's still a great confidence-booster knowing he's coming back, for further on in the tournament.
UEFA.com: England are a bit under the radar this time round, aren't they?
Downing: Not always the strongest team wins; you've seen that with Greece winning it in 2004. Everything's getting built up about teams and who's going to win it, which always happens before tournaments, but we'll just quietly go about our business and try and win games. I think we'll do really well.
UEFA.com: What would you consider to be a successful tournament?
Downing: To win it. Obviously we're all here to win it.
I hear people saying, 'Well, quarter-final [and] we've done all right, or semi-final'. If you come to a tournament, you come to win. That's what the manager has said from day one. We're not here to make the numbers up or get to a quarter-final and go home and thanks very much – we're here to win it.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.