Chris Smalling is ready to stand up and be counted at Euro 2016.

Chris Smalling is ready to stand up and be counted at Euro 2016

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Chris Smalling is not only looking forward to the challenge of making Euro 2016 a success but confounding those doubting England's defensive capabilities.

Not so long ago Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry were the kind of players at the Three Lions' disposal - options Roy Hodgson would no doubt love to have in France.

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The England boss has decided to take just three out-and-out centre-backs to the European Championship and a number of former internationals have suggested the defence could prove their undoing this summer.

Such comments have been given understandably short shrift by Smalling, even if they do provide some extra motivation.

"I think if anything it just gives you another challenge to just to prove people (wrong)," he said ahead of Saturday's Group B opener against Russia.

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"There is always doubts, whether it's with England or whether it's with your club form.

"It's just one of those that there is someone else that can come in and do a job better say me or someone else.

"I think it's just a time to stand up and be counted, and show everyone that you're good enough - more than good enough - to do that job."

Individual errors in the warm-up friendlies against Turkey and Australia highlighted that issues still needed ironing out, although Smalling pointed to the nation's long-standing qualities of being "tactically aware and solid".

The 26-year-old does not see England's lack of a left-sided central defender as a problem - "at the end of the day we are centre backs and we are there to defend" - and is looking forward to pressing home that point in Marseille.

Smalling is a shoo-in for the starting line-up against Russia off the back of his best-ever season at Old Trafford, running the remarkable David de Gea close for Manchester United's Player of the Year award.

"It was one that was very consistent," he said of a fine campaign individually, if not collectively.

"I always knew that if I can stay injury-free and just start the season very well, and get a good run, that I always could produce consistent performances.

"It's nice to have done it over the last 18 months but it is about continuing it now, do it for many years to be considered a very good centre-back.

"There's the ones like Rio who have done it for year after year after year, not just one year and then having a blip (the) next year.

"It's about that consistency with central defenders and that's what all managers want."

Smalling was quick to thank the recently-departed United boss Louis van Gaal for helping him flourish defensively - form he is confident of taking into the Euros.

The 25-cap defender will certainly have to be at his best this weekend to contain the towering Artem Dzyuba, with Russia's 6ft 4.5in striker likely to prove a baptism of fire for England's backline.

"This week we've started to do our team meetings and selected some more player analysis," Smalling said, having dismissed concerns brought by an ice pack being pictured on his knee.

"Obviously he is a big guy and I think it is going to be a very physical battle.

"But that is something in the Premier League we face week in, week out so that's something I enjoy."

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