Miami: England captain Steven Gerrard believes the talented youngsters who have broken into the World Cup squad have helped create a more confident atmosphere for Brazil than was apparent in South Africa four years ago.
"It certainly feels different. The lads are smiling and enjoying training and we`re enjoying being together," Gerrard told reporters on Friday after a training session in sweltering conditions at a university on the outskirts of Miami.
"Four years ago maybe going into the tournament we weren`t in this mood, we weren`t as confident. It`s certainly different this time round. But it`s easy saying that. We know we`re going to be judged on results. Fingers crossed we can go and perform."
Asked if anything in particular made him more optimistic this time, he said: "The standard in the squad because there are two players pushing in every position to get into the 11 and I don`t think there`s much between those two players in every position.
"The manager (Roy Hodgson) is probably capable of picking four or five teams for the Italy game and you wouldn`t see much difference in the standard," he added, referring to England`s opening match in the heat and humidity of Manaus on June 14.
"That`s what gives me hope and also knowing that whichever 11 he picks we`ve got some fantastic talent on the bench to come in when needed," said Gerrard ahead of Saturday`s final warm-up game against fellow World Cup finalists Honduras.
Newcomers such as Southampton`s Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley of Everton and Liverpool`s Raheem Sterling have broken into the squad and are putting pressure on the established players to raise their game.
"I think they have brought their form from the individual clubs into the setup. That`s what I`ve noticed in training so far and hopefully they continue that into the tournament," said Gerrard.
"But these players, you talk about how young they are and how inexperienced they are, but all I can say is they are ready to play. That`s the biggest compliment I can give them and that`s because of what I`ve seen in training."
Hodgson was also encouraged by the rapid development of the youngsters and said it gave him the headache of who to select from a group who could all stake a claim to start.
"I think it`s going to give us enormous opportunities on the bench to change things around. It`s going to be hot. Most teams are going to be thinking we`re not going to get through three times 95 minutes with the same 11 players," said Hodgson.
"We`re going to have to make changes, certainly, during the game and maybe we`ll want to make changes from game to game. I believe with this squad I`ve got that opportunity."
Hodgson said he could affect games with his substitutions, although two of his quickest players, Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, are sidelined with injury and suspension respectively on Saturday.
"We`ve got impact players. Oxlade-Chamberlain is an obvious example, and we`ve talked a lot about Sterling and how it`s a pity he can`t play and, of course, Ross Barkley is another player that you could put in that category of player who could come on and make a big impact," said Hodgson.
Gerrard led England in their dismal 2010 World Cup campaign when they lost 4-1 to Germany in the last 16 under Fabio Capello but the Liverpool midfielder said he was never the Italian`s preferred choice as captain.
Capello`s first-choice skipper Rio Ferdinand was injured in England`s first training session in South Africa and John Terry was not a contender having already been stripped of the captaincy, leaving Gerrard as the only viable option.
"Capello didn`t believe in me as his number one captain. He believed in me as a player, and our relationship was totally fine. I enjoyed working under him but at the time when he had to pick a captain we had Rio Ferdinand and John Terry as well," he explained.
"Maybe he thought they were going to offer something different from me or maybe they were his preferred choice which was totally up to him. But for me now I know I`m Roy`s number one captain which is a big confidence boost for me."