Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We're Not a One-Man Team, Insists Sven

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We're Not a One-Man Team, Insists Sven

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

Sven-Goran Eriksson insisted England will prove they are far more than a one-man team as he faces up to life without captain David Beckham for the Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia.

Beckham may have broken a bone in his hand in Durban, but would have missed the friendly against Serbia-Montenegro on June 3 and the qualifier against Slovakia at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium on June 11 in any case.

Then again, the enormous lengths to which Eriksson went last summer to ensure his captain was able to take part in the World Cup proved just how valuable he is to the national side.

He has played in all 15 of the competitive games so far under Eriksson and it was back in October 2000 in Finland under caretaker coach Howard Wilkinson that he was last ruled out of a qualifier.

In those 15 competitive games, he has scored eight goals, set up several others and has always led by example.

Indeed, while Michael Owen's finishing is also crucial to England, Beckham's goals, inspiration, drive and dead-ball expertise are integral to not only their fortunes but also their style of play.

Eriksson, who seems set to give Frank Lampard the chance to start against Serbia, possibly in place of Beckham on the right flank, admits his skipper is effectively irreplaceable.

However, he insisted: "David Beckham is one of the best footballers in the world but I hope that England are not that poor that we are standing or falling by him.

"That should be sad. If you are talking about a footballer like him, you are talking about Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldo.

"David Beckham is on that level but Real Madrid also have to play even without Zidane every now and then."

Eriksson added: "We knew that after this friendly, Beckham was going on his holidays and not coming with us to La Manga.

"Nothing has changed there, although I'm sorry for him and hope he recovers quickly. …

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