Football: Eriksson to show Dutch courage with trio up front

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The Independent Online
SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON hinted yesterday that he will adapt his favoured 4-4-2 formation against the Netherlands on Wednesday, which means that Shaun Wright-Phillips could finally get his first international start as part of a three-man attack with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

The notoriously conservative Swede said he "was ready to try something a little bit new tactically" before the World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland on 26 March. The Manchester City winger has pressed his case for a start since his brilliantly taken debut goal against Ukraine in August, and with a three-man midfield, Eriksson could still accommodate David Beckham with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

The England captain bruised his shoulder during Real Madrid's 4-0 victory over Espanyol on Saturday but travelled to England yesterday and will join up this morning with the squad that includes Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson and Stewart Downing, of Middlesbrough, for the first time.

Although Eriksson has his first-choice front six, he will have to make changes in central defence. Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell are both injured, while there are doubts over Ledley King and John Terry, who picked up a knock in Chelsea's 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City yesterday. Manchester United centre-half Wes Brown has been called up, and may now play alongside Jamie Carragher, after Birmingham City defender Matthew Upson also withdrew from the squad with a hamstring injury.

Johnson, who only learned of his call-up to the squad when it was announced on television on Saturday night, gets his place after injuries to Alan Smith, Emile Heskey and Darius Vassell ruled them out.

Eriksson said: "He [Johnson] has pace and is a goalscorer, so I've been watching him for some time for Crystal Palace and now I have the chance to take a closer look at him when he is with us this week. That pace that he has is very important in modern international football. He has a lot of it and that is a big thing. He also works very hard for the team and technically he has good ability with the ball at his feet.

"Another quality is his bravery. He is happy to play on his own and work for his chances and take the tackles. These are all good qualities and he seems intelligent too. It helps if you are clever in life, and international football is no different to that.

"It's very exciting to have players like him and Stewart Downing coming through and we have this friendly game to take a look at them. With these two and Shaun Wright-Phillips - who isn't new to the squad but is almost new - we have some very interesting options to pick from."

For a striker who already looks old beyond his years - Johnson is 24 on Thursday - there have been plenty of disappointments on the way to becoming an England international. Growing up in Bedford, Johnson was rejected by his local side Luton Town, for being too small and in August 2002 was sold by Birmingham City to Crystal Palace just a month after he had helped them gain promotion to the Premiership.

Recognition has come more quickly for Downing, 20, whose form has declined after a hugely promising start to the season. Eriksson said that the left winger was unlikely to start but should get a chance to prove himself in the problematic left-sided position.

"He's still very young so there is much more to come from him, but he has already been playing regularly in the Premier League this season and we can see that he is improving all the time," Eriksson said.

ENGLAND SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS

Paul Robinson (Tottenham) 9 caps

David James (Manchester City) 30

Robert Green (Norwich City) 0

DEFENDERS

Ashley Cole (Arsenal) 36

Wayne Bridge (Chelsea) 20

John Terry (Chelsea) 15

Ledley King (Tottenham Hotspur) 11

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool) 16

Glen Johnson (Chelsea) 2

Gary Neville (Manchester United) 73

MIDFIELDERS

Kieron Dyer (Newcastle United) 25

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) 31

Jermaine Jenas (Newcastle) 9

David Beckham (Real Madrid) 77

Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) 24

Joe Cole (Chelsea) 19

Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 29

Stewart Downing (Middlesbro') 0

Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City) 3

STRIKERS

Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace) 0

Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 20

Michael Owen (Real Madrid) 66

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 8

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