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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Leighton Baines has vowed to grab his opportunity to shine on football's grandest stage.

The left-back is currently in Portugal with Roy Hodgson's England squad preparing for next month's World Cup in Brazil.

Evertonians have known for years that Baines’ talents weren’t receiving the international recognition they deserved - prior to the last season.

Indeed, four years ago, the full-back was controversially overlooked for the tournament in South Africa by Hodgson's predecessor Fabio Capello, with Ashley Cole and Stephen Warnock preferred instead.

This time around it was Baines and Southampton's Luke Shaw who made the cut ahead of Cole, prompting the 33-year-old Chelsea star to confirm his international retirement.

It leaves Baines with the chance to build on his 22 caps for the Three Lions and add to the experience he gained at Euro 2012 when he travelled but failed to make an appearance.

He said: "What happened with me four years ago goes to show the way people go mad for the World Cup. One line, when I talked about my kids, was turned into ‘he's homesick'.

"The fact that I went to Euro 2012 and being ready for this one underlines it was very much taken out of context at the time. It was a disappointment and set me back but now it's coming and I really want to go and enjoy it."

Despite his apparent elevation to Hodgson's first choice XI - Baines also played seven of England's 10 qualifying matches - the 29-year-old former Wigan star won't be taking his inclusion in South America for granted.

Hodgson's men kick off against Italy on day three of the tournament, 14 June, and the left-back believes nobody is yet assured a start. Southampton teenager Luke Shaw is the other man with designs on the left-back berth.

"I'm not going to allow myself to think 'I'm the main man," Baines said. "At this level, the competition is always going to be there. You have to keep on your toes and not get complacent because if you don't do the right things then you are not going to be playing.

"Things can change very quickly, so I think whoever starts the first game in the tournament has to do the job, otherwise they are not going to stay in the team.

He added: "Luke has been amazing. How old is he now? 18? He is going to be an England international for the next 12-15 years, he has an amazing future in front of him.

"At that age I was coming through at Wigan - in League One and the Championship."

Watch the video above to hear more from Baines on the forthcoming World Cup, including his thoughts on England's opening clash against Italy and the make-up of the Three Lions squad. If you are using the official app, navigate to the 'videos' section.

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