Football: Lose Tonight and Eriksson's History; THE GAME WE DARE NOT LOSE: Poland SWEDE FACES CHOP IF ENGLAND FLOP AGAIN AGAINST POLES V England, Katowice, Tonight, Kick-Off 7.30pm

The Mirror (London, England), September 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Football: Lose Tonight and Eriksson's History; THE GAME WE DARE NOT LOSE: Poland SWEDE FACES CHOP IF ENGLAND FLOP AGAIN AGAINST POLES V England, Katowice, Tonight, Kick-Off 7.30pm


Byline: Martin Lipton CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER

SVEN GORAN Eriksson may be ignorant of English football history but his own place in it could be decided tonight.

The Swede appears oblivious to the doubts over his future as England coach.

But if Eriksson cannot conjure a display that restores faith and instils equilibrium to a World Cup campaign that has got off on the wrong foot, the country will be running out of the patience he has always called for.

Eriksson was edgy and defensive last night as he dismissed the idea that there was any "panicking" either from himself or the players who stumbled so badly in Vienna.

Yet for the first time he pointed fingers, admitting to the basic errors that mean he has to come up with the goods in the Slaski Stadium tonight.

Eriksson said: "Against Austria we stopped taking positions and started running with the ball, lost it and gave them the chance to counter-attack.

"We must've had a huge percentage of the ball in the first half but we stopped doing the simple things and made it complicated. I'm not talking about all the second half but 15-20 minutes of it - and they scored twice in that period.

"There were moments in the second half where we didn't defend well or attack well. That's why we didn't win the game."

But it is Eriksson's duty, along with that of his coaching team, to instil those simple principles.

For pounds 4million a year, you expect more and that explains why the Soho Square blazer brigade are beginning to harbour serious doubts about him.

Eriksson insisted last night that none of those doubts haunt the minds of his players.

"I should be very surprised if there is one player in the squad who is afraid of losing or thinking about the game after Poland," he said.

"If somebody tells me today they are afraid of losing I would put them out of the team, that's for sure. I believe we can win and there are a lot of reasons to believe that as well.

"I don't agree with those who try to panic after one game and a draw away from home. We should've won that game but made some mistakes, didn't play good football for 10 or 15 minutes in the second half and that cost us two points.

"The players know they need to do better. But they are absolutely not panicking. They are calm and confident."

Asked about the test tonight, Eriksson relied on his old standard. "All qualification games are difficult," he said. "We've never had an easy game away. You have to play very well and make few mistakes if you want to win."

Poland, though, represent more than that, and the renovated but still antiquated Slaski Stadium, a throwback to another footballing era, is full of ghosts.

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Football: Lose Tonight and Eriksson's History; THE GAME WE DARE NOT LOSE: Poland SWEDE FACES CHOP IF ENGLAND FLOP AGAIN AGAINST POLES V England, Katowice, Tonight, Kick-Off 7.30pm
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