Walcott eager to play the big teams

Theo Walcott has no problem with England taking on the big guns at next year's World Cup.

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England were handed one of the toughest draws possible on Friday when they were thrown into Group D along with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.

England may have avoided the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany, but many were quick to label it as the "Group of Death".

Should England make it through their group, a second round clash with either Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast or Japan awaits before a last-eight game versus either Spain or Brazil in the heat of the north.

But Walcott has no qualms about taking on the biggest nations in Brazil.

"Every game is difficult at international level, so it is going to be tough, no matter who you would get," Walcott said.

"But you want to go to Brazil, you want to play the best and beat the best."

Walcott, speaking on Friday morning at the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre, is hoping to make it to his second World Cup having missed out on the 2010 tournament.

Walcott's last taste of tournament football came at Euro 2012. England surprisingly came through a group that contained Ukraine, France and Sweden, but Italy knocked them out on penalties in the quarter-finals.

England were 12-1 shots to win that tournament and they are not among the leading contenders for Brazil so Walcott reckons there will be little external pressure on the squad when they fly out to South

America next summer.

"It is similar to the 2012 Euros, when we went there with people not really expecting anything," the Arsenal forward said.

"Roy (Hodgson) had only just joined up with the team, so only had a bit of time, and I thought we did reasonably well.

"Now the manager has had a bit of time with the qualifiers, and we did not lose a game. People are saying we did not have the best results, but you look at France, they lost against (England's qualifying group opponents) Ukraine 2-0, while we went there and got a positive result."

Walcott may only be 24 but he already knows what it feels like to experience both joy and pain when it comes to the World Cup.

Walcott was the talk of the nation in 2006 when he was selected for England's World Cup squad even though he had not made a single appearance in the Barclays Premier League.

He did not get on to the field in Germany and four years later he was left in tears by Fabio Capello's shock decision to omit him from his 23-man party for South Africa.

The former Southampton man is desperate not to miss out again, and the fact that the tournament is in Brazil, where England played in June, makes him even more determined to make the cut.

"It was a great experience going there to play a friendly last summer, and I want more of it," said Walcott, who has missed England's last four games because of a stomach problem.

"The balance is right between the young and experienced players, and the manager is eager do well, so are the players."


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