Eriksson admits he faces sack if England fail

Reaching the World Cup finals is all that matters, Eriksson said, and he acknowledged that failure would mean the sack for him. But he insisted that the finals are still part of England's future and that he has given value for money to the Football Association.

He accepted the criticism that has been heaped on him from various quarters since the defeat in Belfast, but he denied that he does not care passionately about England's fate and could not motivate his players. "Just because I am not shouting it has nothing to do with motivation or passion," the Swede said. "I care. I am desperate when we are losing but I am not shouting. I want England to play in the World Cup and I am putting my reputation on it. If I do not go to the World Cup I will not have a job in this country and elsewhere. We lost to [Northern] Ireland and I understand the critics. If England do not qualify maybe I should not be here. But England will qualify, I am sure of it."

Asked if he would resign now, he said: "Absolutely not, no chance. We have one foot in the World Cup. We have two games to go and if we win both we are in the World Cup. Why should I resign? Things went wrong on Wednesday, especially in the second half. The manager's job is to try to get it right. I will talk to the players before we come together again and we will get this right."

For a salary of more than £4m a year, Eriksson certainly should. Qualification is the minimum retuirn on the FA's investment. "Have I given value for money for my salary? If you talk about Wednesday, no. If you talk about general qualification games, yes, I think so. This was the first [qualifier] we lost," he said in his radio interview.

"I had a good salary at the club I came from [Lazio] and I would say I haven't the best salary. But if you talk about a national team, if you take a manager he should be paid more or less the same as the best clubs in Europe."

Getting it right may or may not involve reverting to 4-4-2; the system he insisted was not at fault in Cardiff or Belfast, even though the only beneficiary appeared to be David Beckham. "When you lose football games everything is bad, you can find errors everywhere but I don't think the formation was the problem," Eriksson said. "In the first 35 minutes we played as well as we wanted to play, [goalkeeper] Paul Robinson never touched the ball. Something happened out there but we couldn't get it right. We lost the spirit, Northern Ireland beat us. We have to accept that."

Suspended for the first of the last two qualifiers in October, at home against Austria, will be Wayne Rooney, who was booked for a challenge on Keith Gillespie four minutes before half-time. "He is always playing to the edge," Eriksson said of Rooney, man of the match in the Manchester derby yesterday. "This is a stupid challenge and he could have been sent off. He played very well until he got booked, absolutely fantastic. Then we lost our spirit."

Eriksson said Rooney's frustration has nothing to do with playing him out of position wide on the left. "He played how he plays for Manchester United. He is now starting at the right at Manchester United, now on the left there is no difference." Like right and left hands? Or like strikers and wide midfield players?

Of the managers who may follow Eriksson when the Swede does depart, Alan Curbishley again fared the best yesterday, when his Charlton side won 1-0 at Birmingham City and moved to second in the Premiership. Darren Bent scored the goal that made the difference, and that may also make a difference to his chances of filling the vacancy created by Rooney's absence against Austria.

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