England must be mentally tough says Eriksson

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson believes "mental strength" will be a key factor when Fabio Capello's squad gun for World Cup glory next summer.

England head to Ukraine this weekend with their World Cup place already secure following eight wins from eight matches so far.

Eriksson, now 61, stood down in 2006 after taking England to a second successive World Cup quarter-final where they lost a penalty shoot-out, against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen.

The Swede, now director of football at League Two Notts County, feels the 'golden generation' of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney can come of age in South Africa next summer.

"That is one thing which is very important, the mental strength," said Eriksson, who will be a summariser as part of Perform's live Internet coverage of Saturday's match in Dnipro,

"I guess to win a World Cup you must be strong in every area, mentally as well.

"But, if you look at the [England] squad, some of the key players have already been to two or three tournaments, and that is a very big thing for England."

Eriksson knows expectation levels will be "above the roof" between now and when the event kicks off at Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, on June 11 2010.

Yet the former Manchester City boss feels that pressure should not hinder a squad full of talent which has plenty of big-game experience.

"That should not be a problem. It should not affect them," he said.

"They will perform very well. I do not think they suffer from it."

Eriksson added: "Experience in big tournaments is key.

"[Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard are at the right age, [Wayne] Rooney is better and more experienced.

"I think they have a good chance.

"As always, they will need not to have many injuries and to have their big players in the best shape in June, but I am confident for them."

The now infamous 'WAGs' were a huge presence during the 2006 tournament in Germany, with Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, a one-time England captain, last season calling it a "circus" as events off the field in Baden-Baden grabbed just as much attention as the team's performances.

Capello has adopted a much more strict approach to team affairs since taking over following Steve McClaren's ill-fated Euro 2008 campaign.

The Italian intends to limit the time his players will get with family members during the next summer's tournament in South Africa, warning: "We are there to play, not for a holiday."

However, Eriksson maintains the failure to deliver in Germany cannot be blamed completely on the atmosphere outside the camp.

"It's a stupid excuse, isn't it?" declared Eriksson.

"The WAGs were invited when I thought it was the right occasion to do it, and that didn't happen very often.

"So that's not an excuse.

"It had absolutely nothing to do with the football."

Eriksson added: "It should not have made an impact.

"England, in the past, were not different from any other country in the world. The Swedes do the same as we did, the Germans, everyone."

Eriksson has "good memories" from his five-and-a-half-year tenure in charge of the national team.

However, the Swede believes he could have perhaps done one thing differently.

"Prepare the team mentally better for penalty shoot-outs, especially the last World Cup," he reflected, "that is my only regret.

"But whether that would have helped a lot, you never know."

Comments