England urged to avoid complacency

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The Independent Online

When England arrived in this Swiss market town yesterday evening the distant Alps were bathed in the glow of the setting sun and half-a-dozen cars were waiting on red in what passes for rush hour in these parts.

When England arrived in this Swiss market town yesterday evening the distant Alps were bathed in the glow of the setting sun and half-a-dozen cars were waiting on red in what passes for rush hour in these parts. The distinctly rustic smell drifting across the fields outside England's hotel seemed to underline the bucolic location.

The eyes told a different tale. There is an ugly shopping-cum-entertainment centre adjacent to England's lodging, the FA having somehow contrived to dump the team in the only unattractive part of town.

Which is perhaps just as well. With tomorrow's international, just across the border in Liechtenstein, being played in front of fewer than 4,000 there would otherwise be a danger of England being lulled into such a low-key mood they would be unable to find their competitive edge.

That, admitted Steven Gerrard as he checked in last night, could be irreparably damaging to their prospects of qualifying for next year's European Championship. Enough damage was done with the 2-2 draw against Macedonia.

"We underestimated Macedonia and charged on looking for goals when we should have been more disciplined," he said. "You learn from games like that. You can't go into internationals thinking you will win comfortably. England are expected to win this game comfortably, but it is not as easy as it seems coming to a place like this and playing on a difficult pitch. You have to give them all respect."

Gerrard was out of touch against both Macedonia and Slovakia and he admitted: "The season's been hot and cold for me. I started well then went through a couple of months when I was very poor. I was not pleased with my performance in those internationals. I was trying too hard [on the pitch], maybe not working hard enough [off it]. To get it right I needed to work hard in training and get my passing right."

England had arrived, to a cheerful reception from around 30 youthful locals, without Sol Campbell. The Arsenal defender, who has been struggling with an Achilles injury, failed a medical yesterday morning and will stay in London for treatment. He is expected to join up when the team returns to England in preparation for the Turkey match on Wednesday.

In Campbell's absence, Jonathan Woodgate is likely to deputise alongside Rio Ferdinand, reforming the platform on which David O'Leary intended to build Leeds United's bid for domestic and continental supremacy. It did not, of course, work out quite like that. None of those protagonists remain at Elland Road and the pairing of Ferdinand and Woodgate was not a conspicuous success while they were.

Eriksson's main alternative is to recall Gareth Southgate. However, he and Ferdinand have rarely played in tandem. Only twice, against Sweden in November 2001, and Italy under Peter Taylor a year earlier, have they completed a full match as the central defensive partnership. They last played together for the first-half of the September friendly against Portugal, keeping a clean sheet.

Southgate has rarely let England down, but Woodgate represents the future and, as such, is likely to be Eriksson's choice. The rest of the team seems clear with Kieron Dyer filling the vacant position on the left of midfield and Emile Heskey partnering Michael Owen in attack.

Victories tomorrow, and against Turkey, are imperative for the likes of Gary Neville, one of the crop of late-20-somethings, mostly from Manchester United, who have been in the squad for long enough to be aware that opportunities to win international tournaments are running out.

Neville said: "Stuart Pearce told me during Euro 96 'this is as good as it gets'. I was only in my second year as an international and I've always felt I couldn't have reached the high point of my international career at 20. I have to believe there will be something better, a World Cup or European Championship win.

"These tournaments are only every two years and the next two are massive for those of us in our mid-to-late 20s as anything beyond four more years at this level will be a bonus.

"We do talk about this among ourselves. The opportunities to win these things reduce the more time passes. You talk about the adulation that our 1966 team get, or the French team of 1998. Winning these trophies cements your place in history and I don't see any better chance than in the next four years. If it doesn't happen then we've failed.

"But I don't see too many other teams in Europe or the world possessing players with the amount of speed, power, strength, ability and youth England has. There are probably six or seven teams that can win Euro 2004 . . . I like to think England are one of those teams that can win."

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