Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eriksson Gets His Changes Spot On

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eriksson Gets His Changes Spot On

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

At the World Cup, Sven-Goran Eriksson stood accused of not fiddling enough while England burned in the heat of Shizuoka against Brazil.

In Macedonia, however, the England coach again answered those critics who had accused him of tactical inertia and uncertainty.

Just as he changed his team's shape both home and away to Slovakia at 1-0 down and just as he brought on Darius Vassell at exactly the right moment against Turkey, Eriksson got it right in Skopje.

Call it good fortune, call it tactical insight. But, either way, golfer Gary Player's old adage that `the harder I practise, the luckier I get' never rang more true.

For Eriksson emerged with the tactical answer to his side's first-half failings as his calculated gamble on Wayne Rooney and David Beckham paid off handsomely.

He should still be concerned at his team's inability to take command of games early on, with their defensive shortcomings exposed in each of their past four games.

Indeed, there are definite concerns about the frequency with which England are exposed on the break, especially when Ashley Cole is caught out of position.

It was down that channel that Macedonia seized the lead on 27 minutes when Cole lost the ball and, with Sol Campbell slipping at the vital moment, David James was left horribly exposed.

James managed to save the first effort from Goran Pandev, but could only push the follow-up effort from former Barnsley striker Georgi Hristov inside his own post.

England were at last riled into action, Beckham more so than anyone as his whirlwind reaction to a developing spat with several players, including Artim Sakiri, at least proved his fitness.

"He knew the importance of the game and he was a little bit upset coming into the dressing- room but he was calm again after 30 seconds and then said: `Come on boys, let's go out and do it'," revealed Eriksson.

It was Beckham who lobbed the ball forward eight minutes after the break for Emile Heskey to knock it down into the path of Rooney, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the penalty area.

However, while that made Rooney the youngest England international to score for his country, it was Eriksson who had come up trumps with his half-time substitution. …

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