Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Europe Has to Respect Squad

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Europe Has to Respect Squad

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

Sven-Goran Eriksson insisted that the rest of Europe would have respect for the England squad named today for the Euro 2004 finals as he predicted "great things" this summer in Portugal.

England do have a potential weakness in central defence, with a lack of top-class back-up for Sol Campbell and John Terry in the absence of Rio Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate.

Gareth Southgate only made it as far as the standby list along with Matthew Upson due to concerns over his fitness, with Wes Brown and Ugo Ehiogu missing out entirely. Instead, 23-year-old Ledley King and Jamie Carragher, 26, with just 14 caps between them, were picked in the provisional squad.

Eriksson, who has also placed Jermain Defoe on standby with a chance to impress in a training camp in Sardinia and warm-up games against Iceland and Japan, is nevertheless positive about his side's chances. He sees a distinct improvement from the 2002 World Cup, when the pivotal figure of Steven Gerrard, as well as Gary Neville, were injured, and David Beckham and Michael Owen were not fully fit.

"This time, we have not only Steven Gerrard but Gary Neville as well. Just before the tournament in Japan, we lost those two and they are both very important players for us," he observed.

"So I'm very happy today and, touch wood, nothing will happen to them. We are lucky at this moment.

"I'm sure that if the manager of France, Croatia or Switzerland, or any of the other teams in Portugal, was presented with this squad, with all the big names fit, they will have a lot of respect for us. They certainly should have. If these players stay fit, then we can do great things in Portugal.

"A lot of the players are the same (as the World Cup squad), with two more years' experience, which is important and those who were in Japan and still in the squad should be better."

France are England's first group opponents, but Eriksson insisted: "Everyone would agree that it's beautiful to watch Zinedine Zidane and that Thierry Henry is maybe the best striker in the world. But I don't think I build up France or build down England by that. …

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