After an eight-year flirtation
with international football, Scott Parker may feel he is about
to walk to the altar on Sunday when he plays for England against
Italy in the last Euro 2012 quarter-final.
For the 31-year-old Parker, the last-eight match against the
2006 World Cup winners represents a landmark moment in a
slow-burning career punctuated by periods of high promise and
"For me, this is what it is all about, what I have always
wanted," he told a news conference on Friday. "Yes, it has been
tough to make progress here... but me and Stevie [Gerrard] are
relishing it and long may it continue."
Parker, ever present in England's three group games, should
win his 17th cap against Italy but his own modest assessment of
his ability means he is taking nothing for granted. He plays
without personal ego and talks in the same way.
In an England side coach Roy Hodgson has made durable and
difficult to beat, Parker is an unsung hero, a tackler who reads
the game and makes covering runs to free midfield partner
Gerrard and others to create chances.
Seventeen England appearances in nearly nine years in the
English Premier League tells its own story and in Parker's case
it is unique because he won his first four caps with different
clubs, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Newcastle United and West Ham
United, between 2003 and 2011.
From 2007 to 2010, he was not selected by England but he
never gave up and the dogged persistence that has characterised
his career has manifested itself on the field. In many respects,
he has become the heart of England's team at Euro 2012.
On Sunday, he faces one of Italy's greatest midfielders,
Andrea Pirlo, a master tactician who can command and control a
game with his technical ability and range of passing.
For Parker, it is the challenge that confirms his arrival at
the pinnacle of European football.
"I am really looking forward to this," he said.
"When you play football, this is what you want to do - to
pit your wits against the very best. And that is what he is... his passing ability and control of the game is fantastic.
"To play Italy? This is what we are here to do. It is what
we want to be doing. Look at what we are up against - a team
with buckets of experience and a lot of great players, very well
disciplined, organised, prepared..."
For Parker, there will be only one way of containing Pirlo
if the Italian playmaker ventures into his territory and that
will be to press him backwards or win possession with a
trademark snappy tackle.
When France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998, they had
in captain Didier Deschamps a similar player, famously dubbed as
"the water carrier" by compatriot Eric Cantona.
It was a role in which another Frenchman Claude Makelele
excelled for France and Chelsea who signed Parker, in 2004, as
his potential successor.
In his one season at Stamford Bridge, however, Parker had
few opportunities and struggled to establish himself just as he
did initially with the national team.
But Parker is nothing if not tenacious as Pirlo and Italy
will find out.
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