Liverpool's Gerrard surprised at critics of England
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was surprised by the level of criticism after England's recent draw with Montenegro. England are unbeaten in six games in Group H, but sit two points adrift of leaders Montenegro following last month's 1-1 draw in Podgorica.
"It's daunting," Gerrard told Sky Sports News about the year ahead. "There's no getting away from it. It's a huge year for the FA, it's the 150-year anniversary and what they're doing for the game and putting back in.
"In amongst that is a really big challenge ahead of us to qualify for probably the biggest World Cup there's going to be. There is no bigger place to have the World Cup than in Brazil, except for England for us players.
"We want to be there, we're desperate to be there and we're going to keep fighting all the way to the end, and give it everything we've got to get there."
When asked if the draw was a sign of England slipping back, Gerrard added: "I wouldn't say so.
"I think 10, 15 years ago if you'd said to me that Spain were going to win three major tournaments in a row I wouldn't have believed you because they were struggling to get past the last eight of tournaments.
"I think the countries in and around the big nations are all growing, they're all getting stronger and improving. They're putting a lot of money into the national game and every country is improving.
"I've said many times at this level there are no easy games. We beat San Marino 8-0 but you know those games can be tough and tricky, as we've seen against Andorra a few years ago.
"Still, we've got to take the criticism when it comes along and we don't perform as well as we should against these teams. We accept that."